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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. 

Yes, the Election IS Rigged!

Blog.jpgI’ve been hearing the same sentiment, over and over again, from my family, friends and congregants lately. "Rabbi,” they say, “if ____ wins the election, I think we are all doomed!"

In just a few days Americans will elect a new president. The 2016 election cycle has been an incredibly tumultuous election cycle. There is no middle ground in this election; no one who is happy with either candidate. People have incredibly strong opinions and everyone is certain that if the other candidate wins,life as we know it will end. 

Just come to our synagogue on Shabbat morning and listen to the various conversations taking place throughout the room. In fact, I am hesitant to even mention the candidates by name in the shul. I have congregants who are firmly in Camp Clinton and others who are staunchly Camp Trump, and some people are even considering moving out of the US if their candidate is not elected.

For months, my Facebook feed has been filled almost solely with everything election-related, and the links, articles, videos, heated posts and vitriol are only hitting my wall faster and with more force as we get closer to Election Day.

Claims have been made that the election is rigged. And indeed, yes, it has.

We might think that come Tuesday morning, when we head out to the ballot, we are choosing the next president. But we aren’t.

The next president has already been chosen.

You see G-d, the supreme and Almighty leader is the one who decides who will be president. He is the one who rules the world, and He is the one has chosen the president. 

King Solomon says in the book of Mishlei, "A king’s heart is in G-ds hand; wherever He wishes he turns it" 

As we go through life, we can forget that G-d is orchestrating everything behind the scenes. If He wants Clinton, she will be president. If He wants Trump, then Trump will be the president. It’s that simple.

We may think that the polls are driven up and down by things the candidates say and do, but that is all a façade. G-d is directing this election, and the outcome will be the one He has chosen. No amount of voter fraud, rigged ballots or miscounts can change that. 

Of course we must vote and do everything in our power to make sure that the person we think is best suited to rule the country will become leader, but ultimately everything comes from G-d. 

And so when you go Tuesday to the ballot and make your choice, please choose the candidate you think will best carry G-d’s message to the entire world. 

May the person who ultimately becomes president be a worthy messenger of G-d!

Rabbi, I Want to Cremate my Wife!

Screenshot 2016-10-27 at 1.45.33 PM.pngShortly before Sukkot I received a call from Jack*. His wife was on her deathbed and when she passed, he planned to cremate her. 

Having received many similar calls over the years, I know how difficult it is to convince a family not to go through with cremation once they've set their minds to it.

Since it was literally minutes before the holiday, I told Jack briefly why Judaism prohibits cremation, but he was adamant, so I suggested we continue our conversation in person after the holiday.

Unfortunately, his wife passed away the next morning.

The family found me in my sukkah and we sat for a few hours discussing death, burial and cremation. I brought out every argument I could think of. I explained that the body is G-d's gift to us, a temporary loan which we are required to take care of and return undamaged. The same way we don't tattoo, commit suicide or otherwise mutilate the body, we also cannot burn it.

But Jack and his family weren't buying it.

I explained that when Moshiach comes and the dead are resurrected, it's important to have a body.

Still nothing.

So I tried to describe how much pain the soul feels when the body burned.

But Jack and his family told me they don't believe in the soul, the after-life or G-d.

I excused myself for a minute, left the sukkah and offered up a heartfelt prayer. "Almighty G-d," I said, "I need Your help here! I am struggling to convince this family of the importance of a proper Jewish burial. Please help me..."

I said a few chapters of tehillim (Psalms) and I returned to the sukkah.

We continued the conversation and at the end, Jack says to me, "Rabbi, I don't believe in anything you've said, but I've decided to bury my wife. Why? Because my mother in law (who is still alive) begged me to bury her daughter. She said 'I was the one who brought him into this world, I should be the one deciding how she should pass on.' So I'm going to do it, Rabbi."

Here I was, trying every rabbinic argument in the book, and although ultimately I succeeded, my success had absolutely nothing to do with me! None of my reasoning worked. It was entirely G-d who helped me facilitate this mitzvah. But I was left with an important message: never give up! Try your hardest, and when you do, G-d will surely help you. 

As I drove home from the funeral a couple of days later, I thought about one of the sermons I gave on Yom Kippur, where I discussed the concept of a soul coming down to this earth for 70-80 years perhaps to perform one single mitzvah. Maybe, just maybe, this was my mine.

*Name and details have been changed to protect privacy.

My Checks Were Forged

Check-signed.jpgWhen I checked my bank balance this week, I noticed a large withdrawal—a check for $2300. I opened it to view the check, and I saw my signature. The memo said it was for preschool, the date looked accurate and it seemed authentic overall. But I had no recollection of writing the check and I didn’t recognize the name it was made out to. Could it be fraud?

I checked with my wife but she didn’t recognize it either. I double checked the signature, and without doubt it was identical to mine. Something wasn’t adding up. So I called the bank manager and shared my concerns, and he placed a hold on the check.

The following day two more checks show up on my account, with my signature, but definitely not issued by me. I now knew it was definitely fraud.

It turned out that somebody had copied Chabad Israel Center checks and made them look identical, right down to my signature. It looked real, but it wasn’t. The only give away was that the thief had used check numbers that were out of sequence. This was not the real deal.

Thank G-d we were able to stop the theft and recover all the checks in time.

On Yom Kippur we sit in shul, dressed in white like angels, fasting and praying to G-d. We tell G-d, “This is the real me! The me that has been sinning all year is forged. That’s somebody else. It’s not the real me. It may look like my signature, it may look identical, it may be extremely difficult to tell the difference, but it’s not my signature. The real me is the one who is in shul now. The real me is the one who wants to do the right thing. The real me is the one who prays to G-d.”

During the year we may deviate from spirituality. We may have sinned. We may have done things that we are not proud of. But come Yom Kippur, we reveal our true selves—our good and holy selves.

May we all be inscribed in the book of life with health and happiness, and may we have the strength to keep our true selves revealed and in action year round.

Am I Old Fashioned?

hangouts-11-copy.jpgThis week my daughter accused me of being old fashioned and I was genuinely flabbergasted! You see, her bunk-mates from camp are keeping in touch via Google hangout and social media, which I do not allow my daughter to use. I strongly believe that a 10-year-old should not use electronic devices, have Snapchat, Instagram or even her own email address. So I told her she is welcome to pick up the phone to call her friends and actually speak to them. I also compromised by allowing her to text with them once a week from my phone for a specified amount of time.

This led to her calling me “old fashioned.” She told me I grew up in a different generation and I have to live with the times. It’s 2016 now!

When I heard that, I was shocked. I’m only 38 and I consider myself extremely young and “with the times.” But my daughter gave me a reality check, and in a way she’s right. When I grew up in the 80’s, we didn’t have cell phones or internet, let alone Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat. Maybe I do come from a different generation.

I wonder what my children’s children will say about their parents. What kind of advances will the world have made by then?

It’s true, times are changing. Each year we make tremendous advances in science, medicine, and of course, technology. Just think about all the exciting things that have happened in 2016 so far:  Juno successfully entered Jupiter’s orbit, a British couple managed to clone their dead dog, and the world’s first baby with three biological parents was born. And that’s barely the tip of the iceberg.

We are about to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, when we go back in time and relive the creation of the first human. Times may be changing, but as Jews our Torah, our tradition, and our G-d does not. It does not matter if we are living in the 1500’s or the 1800’s or 1980's or 2016 or anytime in the future. It’s the same Torah, the same G-d and the same Rosh Hashanah. 

Rosh Hashanah is one thing that has never changed throughout the generations. No matter where a person may find himself, no matter what modern times may bring, we still sing the same tunes, pray the same prayers, and talk to the same G-d.

Rosh Hashanah is a time to come back home and do things the old fashioned way. So this year, as you prepare to celebrate the holiday, ask yourself, “Am I old fashioned?”

I know I am, and I’m proud of it!

How can I say no to my daughter?

Screenshot 2016-09-22 at 3.43.12 PM.pngA few weeks ago I went to a store with my two year old daughter Sara. I paid for the items that I needed and was heading out the store. As I was walking out my daughter noticed a tambourine. She picked it up and loved the sound that it made when she shook it. She asked me if she could have it and I said no. I told her to put it back on the shelf and she refused.

I asked her again to put the tambourine back and she just sat on the floor with her arms folded.  

She continued to insist that she really wanted it. I tried to reason with her but to no avail. She was adamant that she wanted that tambourine.

Finally, I told her there is nothing more to talk about and we are leaving. That is when she started to cry. 

When I saw those tears come down her cheeks there was absolutely no way I could resist my adorable daughter and so she got her way.

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In just a few days Jews worldwide will celebrate the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. This is the day that G-d judges the entire universe. We recite in our prayers on Rosh Hashanah “Like a shepherd pasturing his flock, making sheep pass under his staff, so shall You cause to pass, count, calculate, and consider the soul of all the living; and You shall apportion the destinies of all Your creatures and inscribe their verdict.”

It is the day of our judgement. Who will live? Who will have health? Who will have wealth? In fact how much money a person will make is determined to the penny on this holy day.

G-d loves every single one of us more than I love my own daughter and so If I cannot say no to my daughter’s request, surely our Father in heaven cannot resist our supplications.

When we blow the shofar on Rosh Hashanah it is a cry from the depths of our heart and G-d will surely bless us all with a good, happy and healthy new year./

It’s up to us! All we need to do is ask G-d

Shana Tova!

Release Your Medical Records!

medical-records-request3.jpgAmerica is 53 days away from electing the most powerful leader in the world, and people are demanding answers about the health status of the candidates.

In order to make decisions that impact the entire world, day after day, a person needs to be healthy. As voters, we need to be certain that the person we choose will be up to the task, both mentally and physically, for the next four years.

Both Hillary and Donald have promised to release certificates from their doctors detailing their health and confirming that they are healthy enough to become the next president.

What about us?

Are we healthy? Spiritually healthy? When was the last time we checked in on our spiritual wellbeing and relationship with G-d?

The same way we demand our presidential candidates complete a health check, we need to evaluate our own health.

What is the status of our observance? Are we finding time daily for Torah study? Can we increase the amount for improved health? Are we lighting Shabbat candles every Friday night? Where are we up to with kosher observance? 

We’re so concerned about Hillary and Donald, but can we produce a certificate from our Rabbi’s guaranteeing our own spiritual health?

The president of the United States is given the awesome responsibility of leading the free world. We too, have a pressing and monumental task—to be a light unto the nations. We are on a mission to make this world a better place by spreading goodness and kindness all around us.

Are we doing our job? Are we keeping ourselves healthy enough to maintain the spiritual stamina we need to complete the task?

We are currently in the month of Elul, which leads up to the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. We have 18 days to ensure that our spiritual records are up to par, so that when we pray, “Who will live and who will die?” we will surely be granted many long and healthy (physically and spiritually) years.

May you be written and inscribed for a good and sweet year!

Rabbi Uriel Vigler

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