Let's keep in touch!
Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Chabad Israel Center? Subscribe to our mailing list below. We'll send you information that is fresh, relevant, and important to you and our local community.
Printed from Chabadic.com

English Blog

English Blog

 Email

Hamas Refuses To Release His Body!

Blog.jpgLast week we had the privilege of hosting Simha and Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar was murdered in August 2014.

The family’s grief and loss is all the more painful because Hamas kidnapped Hadar’s body and continues to hold it captive, presumably as a bargaining chip for some future exchange of prisoners. 

The Goldin family have experienced the unspeakable pain of not only losing a beloved son in war, but the additional agony of not being able to bury his body properly.

On Shabbat, Simha shared some thoughts with our congregation:

After the destruction of the second Temple, many Jews remained in the city of Beitar. The Romans killed them all, and were so angry that they refused to allow their bodies to be buried.

After some time, a new ruler was appointed who finally allowed the burial. In response, our sages instituted the blessing of “HaTov VeHameitiv,” thanking G-d for His goodness in allowing these Jews to be put to rest.

In Judaism, burial is so important that our sages actually instituted an entire blessing that we continue to say 2,000 years later!

Why is it so important to bury a body? Because the body comes from the dust, and that is where it needs to return in order to find eternal rest. 

The mitzvah of burying a Jewish person is called “chesed shel emet” which means true kindness, because it can never be repaid. It is purely an act of benevolence to someone who has now moved on to the next world, and cannot in any way reciprocate the favor.

Surely, we too can all find ways to show kindness to others in lives without expecting any kind of reciprocity.

We hope and pray that Simha (which means happiness) and Leah Goldin will very soon be able to perform chesed shel emet for their son Hadar, and experience the small measure of comfort that having a grave to pray at will bring.

Then Simha and Leah will be able to make the blessing of HaTov VeHameitiv wholeheartedly, because G-d will have shown them this kindness.

I am tired of fake news. Aren't you?

Blog.pngIn our current 24-hour news climate, people are ever more tuned in to the news—good news, bad news, local news, international news, and of course, politics.

Social media has completely revamped the way people receive and share news, which has led to the extensive propagation of “fake news”–arguably this month’s buzz word.

In fact, according to analysts, fake news about US politics accounted for a staggering 50% of the many, many millions of likes, shares, reactions, and comments that English-language stories generated on Facebook this year.

In recent months, as awareness of just how extensively fraudulent news has been passed around and treated as truth has grown, there has been an outcry from the American public, demanding more clarity and honesty from the media. The people want the truth! And Mark Zuckerberg is committed to using his platform, Facebook, to give it to them.                                                                         -------

When the Jews gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, ready for the greatest spiritual revelation of all time—the Giving of the Torah, they had one demand. “We don’t want fake news,” they said, “We want the Real Thing. We demand to see our King! And the only way to guarantee that, is to hear it from the One True Source—G-d Himself.” They did not want Moses to be the go-between; they wanted to hear the Ten Commandments directly from G-d.

We, too, ought to demand the truth. We ought to demand that G-d reveal Himself to us and show us the truth hidden beneath the world’s physical veneer. We’re sick of the fake news. No more lies, no more corruption, no more temptation. We want to see our King, the ultimate source of Truth, reveal Himself immediately, at the ultimate “press conference”.

Almighty G-d, we are waiting to hear from you now!

I was woken at 3am on Shabbat!

Blog.jpgI was looking forward to sleeping in a little this past Shabbat morning. We hosted guests Friday night and went to bed late, looking forward to getting some rest on the day of rest.

At 3:03am I was sharply jolted awake by my highly effective alarm clock.

I recalled that earlier, before Shabbat, I'd noticed my five-year-old son Zalman playing with the alarm, but I hadn't paid much attention. Clearly, I should have!

Couldn't he have set it for 8:03am?! Or set it any other day of the week when I could simply turn it off, roll over, and go back to sleep? Alas, on Shabbat that is not an option. On the one day of rest, I cannot mute my alarm to go back to resting—how ironic!

Moreover, this is no quick and quiet alarm clock—the type that turns itself off after a minute or two. Mine starts out quietly and becomes increasingly louder the longer it rings. 

I tried covering it with pillows and blankets—I must've collected all the pillows in the house!—but still it rang loud and clear. After 25 minutes, I succumbed and decided my best option would be to get up and begin my day of "rest".

In next week's Torah portion the Jews gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This was the climax of all creation, the very reason for the world's existence. And to begin the grand event, G-d blew a shofar. When a human blows the shofar, it begins loudly, gradually weakening and tapering off. But when G-d blew the shofar, it began softly and gradually gained strength, becoming louder and louder.

G-d wants to help us become accustomed to spirituality in a way that we absorb—one step at a time. First, He gives us a small spoonful, gradually increasing it until we can tolerate a full dosage of G-dliness.

There is a tremendous lesson here. We all have to increase our spirituality daily. We cannot be content with what we accomplished yesterday. If yesterday we did one mitzvah, today we must do two. Like the shofar increasing in resonance, we need to increase the light, spirituality, and G-dliness in our lives each day.

So go out and increase the volume!

Immigration Ban

Blog.jpgVirtually everyone was talking about the immigration ban. 

The country was bitterly divided, wracked with chaos and havoc. Half the citizens felt that the immigrants were terrorists and wanted them out immediately, and at any cost, while the other half felt that as skilled workers, the immigrants would benefit their country financially. 

The immigrants were all Middle Eastern. 

Protests erupted all over the country. 

This led to civil war. Brother turned against brother. Tens of thousands of people were killed. 

The Jews had been enslaved in Egypt for 210 years. After nine devastating plagues befell Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Moses warned Pharaoh that the next plague would kill all the firstborns in the land. 

Hence, all the firstborns wanted the Jews to leave immediately. The Jews had caused too much damage, they said. They turned the Nile into blood, brought frogs, lice, wild animals, locusts, and painful boils upon them, and now the firstborns were to die? How much more terror and devastation could they take?

But the rest of the people saw value in retaining the Jews as slaves and weren't remotely interested in letting them go. They'd built cities and pyramids for free—what could be better for the economy?

This was the very first immigration ban. 

Ultimately, the Jews left Egypt at G-d's behest and were brought to the Land of Israel.  

                                                                 -------

In just a few days we mark the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. Very shortly before his passing he gave a Chassidic discourse which began with the words “I have come into my garden.” A year later, when the Rebbe took over the Chabad movement, he explained that these words are the mission statement of our generation.

G-d wants us to take the world and make it into a home for Him—a better, brighter place.

According to Chassidic teaching, Egypt is the only country in the world that G-d banned us from living within. Why? We have already fulfilled our mission there. Throughout the long years of exile, our ancestors found and elevated every single spark of G-dliness He planted there.  

I have friends who are extremely passionate about the current immigration ban, and I love all my friends. As a rabbi, my job is not to take sides, but to remind my friends and congregants that there is a Boss even higher than the president of the United States—our Father in Heaven. He is the one who has ruled the world since its creation, He is the one Who led us out Egypt and He will surely lead us to peace and prosperity in 2017. 

"Hearts of kings are in the hands of G-d, and He turns them whichever way He desires" (Proverbs 21:1). So, this Shabbat, let us congregate at shul and pray that G-d guide this administration to do what is right and just in a way that will bring G-d's presence into the world, to make it a home for Him and to make this "garden" into a better, brighter place. 

Will You Take the Call?

Blog.jpgAt 8:25am on Monday morning I dialed 911 to request police assistance.

At 8:46am, with no sign of anyone, I called again and they assured me they were on their way.

At 9:52 I was still waiting, and I called to speak to a supervisor who again assured me they would be there shortly.

At 10:11am, same story.

Finally, after waiting more than two hours, I left the scene.

FIVE hours later, a police officer called my cell phone. "We're here on East 80th where you asked for us, but we don't see you. Where are you?"

"Where am I?! I waited over two hours for you; do you really think I'm still sitting here waiting five hours later?"

What happened?

On Monday morning I woke up early and went to pray, planning to get an early start at the office. I dropped my daughter off at her bus stop and while my car was parked, a truck backed up and smashed into the hood of my car, tearing it apart. For insurance purposes, I needed a police report, which is why I dialed 911 to begin with.

“When you called,” explained the police office, “the dispatcher asked you if anyone was hurt. You said no. They asked if anyone was trapped. You said no. They asked if the cars were blocking traffic and you said no. This established that there was no emergency and so we first responded to all urgent calls first. Now that we are finally free, we’re here at the scene. We have to prioritize the urgent.”

I thanked the policemen and we resolved the issue, but as I was doing so, I realized my experience contained an important lesson.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe promised that we are the last generation in exile; we will witness the coming of Moshiach in our days! In order to make that happen, he issued an urgent call to every single one of us. URGENT! Do a mitzvah today. Not in five and a half hours; stop and do it now. This will hasten the coming of Moshiach.

In fact, the same thing happens in this week’s parsha. The Jews are in Egypt, in distress, enslaved for 210 years, afflicted, tortured, and abused. 

Finally, the long-awaited call arrived. Moses conveyed G-d’s announcement that the exile was over. Time to pack and prepare to leave immediately! But, the Torah tells us, the Jews didn’t believe Moses. They were so despondent from all their years of subjugation that they did not believe redemption was even a possibility. They did not heed the emergency call.

Let’s not fall prey to the same mindset. We must pay attention and respond to the urgent call the Rebbe put out—do everything in our power to prepare for our exodus from our current exile. It is imminent!

President Trump, Remember Joseph

Blog.jpgPresident-Elect
Donald J. Trump
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Ave

Dear Mr. Trump,

Congratulations on your inauguration. On January 20th, at exactly noon, you will become the leader of the most powerful nation on earth. The whole world will be watching you as you take the oath to preserve, protect and defend the constitution of the United States.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion we also read about an inauguration that took place for a nation that was then the most dominant on earth: Egypt.

The outgoing ruler, Joseph, had led the country as viceroy for 40 years and then as Pharaoh for another 40 years. Joseph successfully guided the nation through the severe starvation crisis, establishing himself as an influential and charismatic leader.

But then, “A new king arose in Egypt that did not know Joseph." The new Pharaoh took over, immediately setting plans into motion to enslave, afflict and torture the Jews, despite the fact that the Jews had saved his country. 

That verse tells us all. Pharaoh became the supreme leader commanding the most powerful person nation on earth, but he led his people to disaster and ended up losing all his power. Right here, in this verse describing his inauguration, the Torah explains to us how he destroyed himself and led his country to a downfall: ingratitude. 

Joseph was the one who saved Egypt from starvation, led the country for 80 years, molding it into the powerful empire it was, and along comes the new Pharaoh and completely dismisses his contribution. He ended up ignoring and being ungrateful to G-d as well. 

President Trump, when history is written, let it be written thus: "And a new president arose that knew Joseph." The key to a successful presidency lies in these words. Be grateful, thank G-d every day, appreciate His gift, appreciate His wisdom, acknowledge G-d in your life and you will be an extremely successful 45th president!

May G-d bless you to lead this great country with humility, to unite this country with wisdom and courage, to be a very effective president and to make America great again!

Yours truly,

image1 copy.png

 

Rabbi Uriel Vigler
Manhattan, NY

 

Hamas hacks the IDF!

youve-been-hacked.pngHacking has been in the news non-stop lately. Did Russia hack the elections? Was it all just hype? We may never know. But another hacking story broke this week, albeit with much lessfanfare.

Hamas hacked the IDF.

We know Israel’s security is top-notch, so how did Hamas manage to penetrate?

They bided their time, thinking long and hard, until they managed to identify and target a weak spot. When they found it, they struck. What did they use? A honey trap!

Hamas operatives posed as attractive, young Israeli women by assuming their identities and making contact with soldiers, mainly through Facebook. Following contact with soldiers, the Hamas operatives would attempt to engage in an intimate virtual relationship and convince soldiers to download a messaging app that would allow for video chatting.

The app was actually a Trojan horse, which gave Hamas total control over the device and allowed the terrorist organization to activate the camera and microphone, access contacts, videos and photos, and even Whatsapp conversations and emails—all without the soldier being aware.

Moreover, Hamas also managed to delete the application from the devices, while simultaneously installing more sophisticated monitoring and control applications without leaving a trace.

Fortunately, the IDF quickly caught wind of the ploy and no major military secrets were revealed.

It is the approach here that stands out: first they made themselves look like friends, then they turned around and stabbed Israel in the back!

We may not be soldiers in the IDF, but we have had similar experiences in a spiritual sense. Every single one of us was born good. We want to do the right thing. We don’t want to sin. We don’t want to fight with our neighbors and friends. We don’t want to lie or cheat or hurt anyone. We are good people.

But our evil inclination wants to hack us and harm us. In fact, the evil inclination actually has three faces: First it entices you to sin (evil inclination), then it is the prosecuting angel in Heaven (Satan), and then it is the Angle of death.

The goal of the evil inclination is to harm us, to kill us, to take our souls away—it is the angle of death. But how can it accomplish this when we are so very well protected?

So what the yetzer hara (evil inclination) does is pose as our friend. He honey traps us. He explains to us how sweet and how delicious this piece of shrimp is. Then he tells us how delicious and how sweet it is to slander somebody and he uses our tongue to speak mockingly all day long. Ahh ,how sweet it is! Then he convinces us to get into a deliciously virulent argument with somebody else because it is so pleasurable to him. And on, and on.

And then, when he’s turned us so far from our innate goodness that we hardly recognize ourselves, the yetzer hara goes on high to become our prosecuting angel, and then once that is done he kills us

It’s up to us to take precautions to ensure we won’t be hacked. Just like the IDF is now running training sessions for its soldiers, to make sure they know how to recognize and detect honey traps, we need to sign ourselves up for an extra dose of Torah study, an extra mitzvah, to build up our armor and protect ourselves from the devilish ways of the wily evil inclination.

Captured on Video - Brother Saves Brother

twin-saves-brother-lifts-dresser-video.jpgA little two-year-old boy from Utah became a national hero this week. The video of Bowdy Shoff saving his twin brother Brock when a dresser fell has been viewed millions of times.

Skeptics claim the video is a hoax because the dresser was empty, the nanny cam was pointed at the dresser rather than the bed, and the boys’ father works for the company that sells the nanny cam.

Whether the camera captured a candid moment or a manufactured one, something clearly struck a chord with those who watched it: the love between two brothers.

This is the message we need to internalize.

Surely Brock and Bowdy have fought many times in the past, but when it mattered most, it was the love that rose to the surface and directed Bowdy’s behavior.

In this week’s Torah portion, Benjamin is in trouble. He is accused of theft by the Egyptian ruler who demands he remain as a slave. His brother Yehuda steps forward, risking his life, and offers to trade places to save his brother. Ultimately, his act of brotherhood reunites the entire family. 

Brother stands for brother. Jew stands for Jew.

Like all siblings, we may disagree with one another periodically, and perhaps on very pivotal issues. But when it comes down to it, we are one nation and our love runs deep. So let’s stop the fighting, the hate and animosity and let’s get back to helping each other!

I lost $75,000

money.jpgGrowing up in South Africa, I’d never even heard of the Upper East Side, knew no one living there, and certainly never considered moving there myself.

But about 10 years ago I took a leap of faith and moved here to open the Chabad Israel Center. We had no funding, no start-up money, no nest egg. We simply trusted that our work would be enough to convince people to partner with us in building a thriving Chabad center.

So when a friend suggested I meet Yehezkel*, I set up an appointment to see him at his office. 

When I arrived, he was clearly busy. Phones were ringing non-stop, employees were running around and Yehezkel had little patience for our meeting.

 “What do you want?” he asked.  

I began to explain what Chabad is, what we do and what our mission is, but after less than two minutes he cut me off.

“You’re not answering my question,” he said. “What do you want?”

I did some rapid mental arithmetic, calculating what we needed to continue operating for the next few months, and told him, “I want $25,000 from you.”

He looked at me for about 15 seconds, and I was sure he was astounded by my chutzpah, ready to throw me out of his office. But he simply said, “Ok, yes.”

My relief was palpable. 

But Yehezkel wasn’t done with me. “I also want you to start giving a Torah class in my office each week,” he said.

Double jackpot!

I walked out of that meeting with a check for $25k, and a weekly Torah class!

Thus began a beautiful relationship which has only grown and flourished in the ensuing years. We became firm friends and have spent hours in study together. He and his entire family have become very involved in the Chabad center and stronger in their Torah and mitzvah observance. 

Recently, we were reminiscing about our relationship and the time we first met. I reminded him of the meeting and explained that I had never asked someone for that kind of money just minutes after meeting them.

But then Yehezkel shared his perspective:

“I remember well,” he said. “For months before that meeting, I had been thinking about contributing to charity, but I wasn’t sure where to give. So I set aside some money in the bank until I could decide. The money set aside was $100,000 and when you walked into my office I had already decided to give it to you. So when you asked for $25k, I thought to myself, ‘This is my lucky day! I just made $75k!”

As I mulled over his words, I realized there was a tremendous lesson to be learned from our encounter. If he had already earmarked the $100k for charity, why didn’t G-d give me that $100k right then and there? Why did He lead me to ask for $25k?

Clearly, G-d knew exactly what I needed at that time. Back then, $25k was a large amount, and I didn’t need more than that. It was enough to maintain our operations for several months, and G-d knew that. He decides how much a person will earn, and there is no way to obtain more than that. So even though Yehezkel had set aside $100,000 for charity, only $25,000 was for me.

Over the last 10 years, I’ve seen this happen multiple times.

 

I wish you a joyous Chanukah and to be able to see G-d’s loving hand in your life!

Rabbi Uriel Vigler

Heartwarming Letter!

Blog.jpg“…there is nothing more painful than that phone call, in the middle of the night, that tells you your precious child, whom you love more than anything in the world, has been severely injured…”

This is a direct quote from a beautiful, heart-rending letter I received this week, penned by the mother of one of our Belev Echad heroes.

The letter continued:

“Since that awful phone call, when we found out that our child had been severely wounded by a terrorist while on active duty in the IDF, our son has been through indescribable pain and hardship, both physically and emotionally. He has undergone multiple operations and medical procedures, and he has not yet finished. He spends a significant amount of time in rehabilitation, and more surgeries loom over his future.

“It has been difficult for all of us. For my son, of course, there has been the physical trauma and the equally potent emotional trauma. The rest of us have suffered, too. Anyone who has spent time with a loved one in pain knows how difficult it is to watch someone you love suffer. How helpless we felt! If only we could alleviate his pain…

“To say I was overjoyed when my son went on the Belev Echad trip would be an understatement. But, as a mother, of course I was nervous, too. Seeing the Facebook pictures you posted kept me feeling reassured and up-to-date on my son’s wellbeing. The fantastic time you gave him and the other wounded soldiers is a gift I know we will all cherish—the soldiers and their families too—forever. 

“The amount of love and appreciation my son received from complete strangers fills my heart with peace and contentment. The images of my son smiling, laughing, and looking happier than he has in months, are priceless. I have no words to adequately express my appreciation… Thank you!” 

What a heartwarming letter! 

This week we read about another mother, “Mama Rachel.” Rachel was one of our four matriarchs, renowned for the sacrifices she made for others. She died while birthing her second child, and she forwent the honor of being buried with her husband, Jacob, and ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rivkah, just so that she could assist her children thousands of years later, when they were exiled from Jerusalem because of their sins. As they passed her grave, she would pray for them and beseech G-d to forgive them and allow them to return to Israel, their homeland. This is a true Jewish mother, always thinking of her children and their needs.

A healthy parent wants nothing more than to see her children happy. That is a the greatest gift a child can give. 

We have the ability to give that gift to our Parent—G-d. He wants to see us smiling and joyfully living the life He prescribed. “Serve G-d with joy,” we are told, for it will enhance the mitzvahs we fulfill, and lead us to do even more. Give charity with eagerness, pray with exuberance, go out of your way to smile and help those around you. The combination of happiness and mitzvahs is the ultimate gift we can give our Father and Creator.

Farewell, Dear Heroes!

Blog.jpgImagine being in pain 24 hours a day. Not a little twinge or background ache, but real, severe pain. The kind of pain you can't forget about, even for a moment. It's always there. It directs your every movement, limits your time, compromises the quality of your sleep.

Imagine going to bed at night, knowing that even when you finally fall asleep (after taking a carefully concocted combination of pain medications) you will not feel relief. The pain will wake you, and often.

What kind of person would you be? How would it change you?

I think it's safe to say that living this way could and would make most people justifiably angry, morose, and difficult to be around. Certainly, you'd have every right to complain repeatedly, and even to wallow in self-pity. Your patience would probably be severely limited, if not completely eroded, and sympathy for others' challenges would be virtually impossible to muster.

But this week I met 11 people who experience severe, chronic pain yet still manage to be positive and upbeat, filled with a love for life and an excitement for new experiences and relationships.

Who are these people? Our heroes, Hilal, Alemu, Dor, Gal, Yaniv, Yotam, Matan, Adi, Ran, , Daniel and Naor, all IDF soldiers who were severely wounded in the line of duty, who are now here, visiting New York as guests of our 13th Belev Echad trip.

I've discovered that spending time with these wonderful individuals is far from depressing. In fact, it's fun and inspirational. They were heroes in the IDF, and they are heroes now, managing to spread joy and hope wherever they go, despite the constant pain and discomfort they experience.

For 10 days I've accompanied them as they visited schools, offices, restaurants and tourist sites. I've watched them interact with people from all walks of life, and I've noticed that everywhere they go people are drawn them. They want to hear their stories, bask in their smiles, be inspired by their laughter. These soldiers are truly affecting everyone they come into contact with in a remarkable way.

Surely we, most of whom do not have to contend with the type of chronic physical pain these soldiers are dealing with, have much to learn from them!

Farewell dear heroes, we love you!

I have 1 kid + 3 kids

Blog.pngThis week our community is hosting its 13th delegation of wounded IDF soldiers.

At breakfast today, Hilal Besan shared his story. Hilal comes from a Druze family and he finished his army service with distinction. Hilal is a triplet, and one of his brothers worked as a prison guard until he was killed in 2010 while trying to save others from fires raging across the country.  

Hilal and his wife have one child, and after the tragedy they adopted his brother’s children. The children live right next door with their mom, and are co-parenting all three. So when people ask Hilal how many children he has, he answers, “One plus three.”

In 2012 Hilal left his job and decided to honor his brother’s memory by becoming an officer in Israel’s prison guard unit. Two years later, while he was transporting a prisoner from his cell, the prisoner asked to use the bathroom where he managed to retrieve a pistol which had been smuggled in for him. He started shooting and Hilal immediately tried to subdue him. The prisoner shot Hilal twice in the chest, but his adrenalin kicked in and he didn’t even realize how critically he had been wounded. With the help of fellow officers he was able to tackle the prisoner and calm the situation, preventing many potential deaths. For this, he later received Israel’s highest medal of honor.

But at the time, Hilal was critically wounded. He lost a tremendous amount of blood and spent 45 days in intensive care. Twice he was actually considered clinically dead but the doctors were able to revive him.

When Hilal shared his story at breakfast, there was not a dry eye in the room. What incredible sacrifices this man has made!

In this week’s parsha we read about the birth of Jacob and Esau, who represent the powers of good and evil, respectively. Jacob represents kindness, patience and peace. Esau represents evil, terrorism, murder and sin. With their birth, the eternal battle between good and evil began.

Our job is to subdue the evil. We know we will be victorious. We know, without a shadow of doubt, that we will win this war. When we meet heroes like Hilal, it reminds us of the power of good, and motivates us to dig deep and find ways to help those around us in small ways or large. We, like Hilal, will be victorious! 

I Love Running Pre-Dawn

Blog.jpgOn Monday morning I awoke at 4am, as I frequently do. I love the pre-dawn hours and find them particularly productive and invigorating. In fact, the first sentence in the code of Jewish law instructs, “One should strengthen himself like a lion to get up in the morning to serve his Creator, so that it is he who awakens the dawn...”

I studied Chassidic texts for half an hour, answered some emails, put on my sneakers and went for a run. It was cold outside—35°F—with strong winds, I loved it. I had my headphones on and as I ran I listened to a talk given by the Rebbe.

It was still dark outside and I headed for the Central Park reservoir. Although the reservoir is usually well-lit, with lights every few feet, for some reason on this morning the lights were only working three quarters of the way around. The rest was dark. Pitch black, in fact.

As I ran, I thought about the words of our sages, “The darkest time of the night is immediately before dawn.” And indeed, I finished my run just as dawn broke, heralding morning light across NYC.

Over the years, I have used these words to comfort many people, including myself. When faced with a crisis, it’s important to realize that just as the darkest time of night is immediately followed by dawn, the hardest times in life are followed by relief. Whenever you think that you are in a terrible, dark place and you cannot see the light, don’t worry. Know that G-d will help and it will soon be light again. In fact, our positive thoughts can actually influence the outcome, as the third Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was known to say, “Think good and it will be good!”

This weekend is the international conference of Chabad emissaries. Over 4000 rabbis from across the globe will gather for workshops, lectures, seminars, and most importantly, to strengthen and encourage one another. We will talk, inspire, share ideas, and focus on our most important mission—how to end this darkness. We are currently in the longest, darkest and most bitter exile in Jewish history. It seems it cannot get any darker, but that means dawn must be right around the corner. Together we will usher in that “dawn” throughout the world, finally ending this bitter exile and embracing the new and wondrous era of Moshiach. 

How Many Hours Until You Die?

Blog.jpgTwo weeks ago I flew to South Africa for my nephew’s bar mitzvah. As a child, I loved flying. I looked forward to it—getting on the massive jet, having my own seat (which felt so spacious!), walking up and down the aisles feeling very important, etc. Now my kids love flying, but I seem to have outgrown the thrill. Perhaps it’s because of my age, or maybe it’s because I’ve flown to South Africa approximately 55 times thus far!

At any rate, I found myself on one of the world’s longest flights, from New York to Johannesburg, and time seemed to crawl. I had a nice chat with the person sitting next to me, I caught up on some work, got a drink, ate something, learned some Torah, walked around the plane several times looking for Jews to do a mitzvah with (no luck—nobody else had even ordered a kosher meal). I took a nap, prayed mincha and visited the restroom. After all that I consulted the flight map on my screen and realized we had only been in the air for three hours, with another twelve to go.

The flight feels endless. You fly and you fly and you fly… and there are still hours to go. In fact, my entire trip there and back lasted 96 hours: 40 travelling, 56 on the ground.

With so much time on my hands, I got thinking. Isn’t life just one big flight? Ethics of our fathers tells us, “This world is like a corridor. Prepare yourself to enter the palace at the end of the corridor—the World to Come.” How many hours do we spend preparing ourselves for our Final Destination? How much time do we have to accomplish something useful before we arrive?

 Here’s what my calculation looks like:

There are 24 hours in a day, and the average person sleeps 6-8 hours, which I’ll average as 7. So a day now consists of 17 hours.

Now think about how many of those 17 hours we waste on things like watching television, waiting on line at Starbucks, Googling ourselves, checking Facebook for the umpteenth time, etc. Then there are necessary things like meals, bathroom breaks, getting dressed, cleaning, commuting—all of which take time. For many people it’s probably more, but let’s be conservative and deduct 7 hours for all of the above.

That leaves us with 10 hours per day to be productive, kind and spiritual. We have 10 hours per day to make this world a better, holier place.

Let’s say you’re 25 years old. The average American lives until the age of 75. That leaves you with 50 years to live. Ten hours per day may not seem like much, but at that rate you have 182,500 hours remaining, which is nothing to sneeze at!

If you are 35, you have 146,000 hours left

If you are 45, you have 109,500 hours left

If you are 55, you have 73,000 hours left 

If you are 65, you have 36,500 hours left. 

In this week’s parsha we read about Abraham, who the Torah describes as, “Coming in days,” meaning that he lived every day of his life to its fullest. He utilized every moment, every opportunity to accomplish. He did not waste time; he knew his time here was limited.

Every hour that passes by unutilized is gone forever, and every hour that passes brings us closer to the World to Come. Let’s make sure we are adequately prepared, by using that time to make this world a better place.

The world is an airplane; life a journey—one which lasts much longer than my 15-hour flight. Nevertheless, it will eventually end, and we will arrive at our destination. Now you know exactly how many hours you have left, go and utilize them!

Let's Make America Kind Again!

Blog.jpgThis week the US finally finished an extremely long and divisive election. Despite all the pundits and pollsters predicting a win for Clinton, after a mutually ugly, vitriolic race, Trump pulled off a win that will be remembered as the most stunning upset in American history thus far.

This election has divided us unlike any other. It has pitted friends and even family members against one another. Shul member against shul member. Brother against sister. Husband against wife. Families have been torn apart; friendships demolished.

I received dozens of phone calls and emails yesterday, from people on both sides—those wishing to celebrate Trumps win, and those looking for comfort after Clinton’s loss. And, as always, Facebook and Twitter provided a very public platform for everyone to air their feelings, whether jubilation or outrage.

And I found myself wondering, who really won the election? 

                                                                        ******

As a young child, Reb Zalman Aharon (the “Raza”), the older brother of Rebbe Sholom DovBer of Lubavitch (the “Rashab”), often complained that he was noticeably shorter than his younger brother.

One day, the Raza snuck up behind his brother and pushed him lightly into a small ditch. As the Rashab stood up in surprise, the Raza seized the moment and pointed out that now he was taller.

Rabbi Shmuel of Lubavitch (the "Maharash"), the father of the two boys, observed the entire episode. The Rebbe asked for a chair, ordered the Raza to stand on it, and asked him, “Tell me, who’s taller now?”

The Raza answered excitedly that yet again he was taller.

 “Aha!” said Rabbi Shmuel. “There you are! To be bigger than your friend, there is no need to pull him down. Simply elevate yourself!”

                                                                          *****

When it comes to our lives, we all ultimately want the same things—peace, security, jobs, healthcare, comfort. And when election time comes, we argue and debate endlessly about which path will bring us to that shared goal.

But all too often we get caught up in the debate, and make the mistake of degrading and belittling those who feel differently. We have extremely strong opinions about who should lead the country but Instead of lifting ourselves up, we push the other person down. We all have faults, and it's easier to point out the other person's faults than to elevate and fix our own.

So, in that sense, we all lost the election.

Now we are finally post-election and can begin the healing process. We need to rekindle the love we feel for each other, the love that may have become hidden over the last few months because we were so busy debating our election choices.

Let’s focus on what unites us—our love for each other!

We read about the covenant G-d made with Abraham, the first Jew, in this week’s parshah. The Covenant of Parts—a guarantee that no matter what comes between us, we will remain connected eternally. We are all part of the same family, we share the same destiny and the same G-d.

It’s time to remember that we’re in this together, for the long haul. By shaking off all the election drama, and reuniting with our brethren, we can and will make America kind again. 

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.