Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side. 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

Banned by Facebook

facebookban.jpgThis week I sent a Facebook friend request to someone I had only recently met. I got a message on my screen that Facebook was barring me from taking this action; since I had recently sent a friend invite to someone I did not personally know. The website informed me that as a result of this, I would not be allowed to make friend requests for the next two weeks. The truth is though; that I currently have 1574 friends on Facebook, most of whom I know personally, and I almost never send requests to people I don’t know.

Chabad Israel Center recently hosted a very successful Friday night dinner for our young professionals. There were 150 people in attendance, among them many new faces. I mentally jotted down a note to befriend them on Facebook, until I remembered my two weeks weren’t up yet.

At first I was really annoyed. But then it hit me that I have over 1500 Facebook friends and I’m still not satisfied. I decided right then and there to appreciate what I did have and to focus more energy on my current friends. So the two week Facebook “curse” actually turned out to be a blessing. I was able to cultivate the relationships that already existed and reach out to those I already knew. And so it ought to be in all of our lives; we need to cherish that which is already ours, bond with our loved ones and channel our energy into appreciating one of life’s greatest gifts.

A friend of mine (who does not yet have a facebook account) was recently complaining about how difficult his life is. He was feeling frustrated and somewhat depressed over his failure to raise capital to purchase a new building for his business.  I looked him straight in the eye and reminded him of the beautiful wife and and darling son G-d has blessed him with. “Why don’t you focus on them?” I prompted. “Why don’t you appreciate your stunning home?” “Thank G-d for the wonderful blessings He has bestowed on you!”

Indeed, there is one area of our lives we should never be satisfied with- the spiritual side. Our sages teach us that when it comes to our physical needs, we should always be satisfied with what we have, but when it comes to our spiritual concerns we should always try to increase.

This essentially is what Parshat Bo is all about. Pharaoh was possessed of an unmatched ego that eventually led to his downfall. The prophet Ezekiel describes Pharaoh as "the great serpent who couches in the midst of his streams, who says, “My river is my own, and I have made myself" (Ezekiel 29:3) Moshe pleaded endlessly with Pharaoh to release the Jewish people, yet he adamantly refused, preferring to think of himself as a god with hundreds of thousands of Hebrew worshippers. With the end of each plague he faced a choice to let them go or stay, but his self image refused to consider their release. Pharoah was a tyrant, a mass murderer and at the core of it all was his bloated ego. Pharaoh was never satisfied with his lot, his need to obtain more and more drove him. In the end he was left with nothing.

Let us all focus on the blessings that G-d has bestowed upon us!

Your moment of truth?

captain.jpgThe world watched horrified this week as the tragedy of the sinking Costa Concordia seized our screens. Eleven have perished, twenty one are still unaccounted for and the blame is being laid squarely on the captain's shoulders.

Francesco Schettino, was born in 1960 in Meta Campania. In 2002, after attending the Nautical Institute at Piano, Schettino joined Costa Cruises first as an official in charge of security and then moved up to become second in command before being promoted to the rank of captain on the newly launched Costa Concordia.

Schettino had trained for years to captain a ship; his qualifications included how to take appropriate action in a time of crisis. But alas, when push came to shove, the cowardly captain did not hesitate to shirk his responsibility.

In fact, the first person to call for help was a passenger; the captain himself did not make a distress call until 49 minutes after the impact, saying, "Va bene (OK), let's declare distress." The recordings reveal a man apparently out of control, incapable of displaying the kind of decisiveness needed from a ship's captain in ordinary circumstances, let alone a disaster such as this.

His version of events involves him falling off of the ship as it listed.  Whatever the case may be, he clearly abandoned his vessel and saved his own skin, making a hasty retreat by cab back to his hotel while thousands of passengers and crew remained stranded on the stricken craft. Schettino allegedly even refused to return to the ship to oversee the evacuation after being ordered to do so by the coast guard.

His years of training all amounted to this moment--the defining moment of his career-- yet when it faced him he failed miserably. Imagine the irony: you spend practically your entire life preparing for a single moment, and when it arrives it totally passes you by.

Every one of us was placed here in this world for a purpose and a mission.  We spend our whole lives preparing for it, but don’t necessarily know when our moment will arrive. We attend school. We absorb the life lessons of our parents and teachers. We sit through college. Little do we know, that very mission could be one single Mitzvah. As the Baal Shem Tov says, our souls may have descended from Heaven to this world for 70 years just in order to do one favor to a fellow Jew.

Moshe Rabbeinu observes his very own sinking ship in this week’s parsha. His flock, the Jewish people, are drowning in Egypt. Pharaoh is callously throwing their newborns into the Nile. Each day sees the slaughter of 300 Jewish children in whose blood Pharaoh bathes- an apparent cure for his leprosy. Matters deteriorate further when Pharaoh withholds straw from the Jewish slaves, ordering them to find their own with which to make mortar, in addition to producing their daily quota of bricks. The exile has become unbearable, yet the captain does not abandon his vessel. He could have easily saved his own skin and returned to his own house and family. Instead  Moses protests, "My G-d, why have You done evil to this people?"  He begs and pleads on their behalf and eventually G-d redeems the nations.

When our pinnacle moment arrives, we can’t mess up. We must rise to the occasion. What will you do in your moment of truth?

Will a real leader please stand up?

punch.jpgI was studying Torah with a dear friend this week and following the session, he made his way to the subway to catch a train home. While innocently sitting on the train minding his own business, a total stranger approached him and punched him smack in the face. Such an astounding thing has never happened to him in his life. Instinctively he punched his attacker back. The subway doors opened right then, preventing a great commotion. 

America is in the process of electing a new president. An ordeal that is nothing but a big boxing arena. Everybody is out to see who can land the hardest punch, for he who punches the strongest is crowned the victor. It is a messy procedure because of the dirt that is smeared on rival candidates’ profiles. If a politician wants to gain popularity, he shamelessly punches his contender in the face rather than portray himself as a viable nominee. A true head chooses the respectable route to gain the nation’s esteem; he exhibits the qualities of a leader and demonstrates his virtues, thereby elevating himself without quashing his opponents.

As a small child, Reb Zalman Aharon (the Raza), the older brother of the Rebbe Sholom Dov Ber of Lubavitch (the Rashab) often complained that he was noticeably shorter than his younger brother. One day, the Raza sneaked 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 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 is 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!”

Indeed it was by this principle that Israel’s greatest leader, Moses, conducted his life. In this week’s parsha when G-d revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush and requested that he confront Pharaoh and ultimately lead the Israelites out of Egypt, Moses immediately protested and asked G-d to elect a more suitable candidate. "Who am I to go to Pharaoh and to take Israel out of Egypt?" Our politicians would do well to learn the trait of humility from Moses. By portraying an opponent as a suitable and worthy candidate, rather than lowering himself, he proves his worthiness as a leader.

The principle ought to be applied in our personal lives. A friend of mine complained bitterly to me this week. He owns a successful restaurant that has provided nicely for him and his family over the last couple of years. Several months ago a restaurant opened up next door his place. Things started going downhill so he began to subtly bad-mouth the other place to his customers. I advised him to shape up his own place instead of belittling his neighbour… the superiority of his restaurant will automatically attract business.

When you get punched in the face, don’t punch back, straighten your shoulders and show them what you’ve got. It takes a unique strength of character to step back and walk away.The kind of strength of character that defines a real leader.

Spitting at an 8 year old girl

This past Shabbat morning, my kids were playing together. Suddenly, in the middle of their game, my five year old daughter got upset at my three year old son and she literally attacked him. She flew into a rage, totally lost control of herself, and started hurting her little brother. Luckily, I was present and I quickly put her in timeout before any serious damage was done. A mere half hour later, I took both kids to shul with me and lo and behold, I saw them playing together happily as if they were eternal best friends. I thought to myself who are my children truthfully? The ones fighting with each other, or the ones who are best friends? What do they really feel for each other? Hate or love? Animosity or friendship?

I have been listening to the news in Israel the last couple of days and my heart is in pain. There is no excuse whatsoever for a “charedi” man to spit at an 8 year old girl. It is totally and utterly shameful. There is no excuse whatsoever for a “charedi” to call a female soldier a “whore.” This has absolutely no place in our society. There is no excuse whatsoever for a “charedi” to wear holocaust garb and a yellow star. There is also no excuse whatsoever for the hate and animosity being spewed from the “secular” side of the argument. The poisonous venom that is being spread palpably across Israel and the entire Jewish world is totally and utterly unacceptable.

Israel seems to be torn apart by hate and violence, and my heart is aching. But there is another scene that I cannot forget: October 18, 2011, the day Gilad Schalit came home. The unity that prevailed then was indescribable. For one day there were no more “charedim” or “chilonim,” “settlers” or “leftists.” There were no more barriers, no more labels, and no more political parties. For one day we stood as a nation - as one family. As siblings, as one family. Yes, people argued about the heavy price paid for his release, but as Gilad embraced his father Noam, every heart melted, and every eye shed a tear.

So I ask myself – who is the true nation of Israel? Is it the nation that stands divided? Fighting? Arguing? Demonizing each other? Committing vile and offensive actions? Or is it the nation that shows such a deep love and compassion for just one soldier? The nation that ultimately stands together through thick and through thin? The nation that shares loves, hopes, and dreams?

Deep down inside, every single one of us already knows the truth. The “quintessential Israeli moment” was the moment of love, of unity, of oneness. That is when “Am Yisrael Chai,” and we reached our deepest core. The peak of Jewish greatness is when we feel for each other, celebrate, and even cry together. This is the heart of the Jewish nation, and the heart of Israel. The nation that is tearing each other apart before the eyes of the entire world is not. It is time to embrace our true selves.

The disciples of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi asked their master: "Which is the greater virtue, love of G-d or love of one's fellow?" Rabbi Schneur Zalman replied: “True love means that you love that which your loved one loves. G-d loves every single one of His children. So ultimately, the two loves are one and the same, and when one truly loves G-d, s/he loves with equal intensity every single fellow Jew.”

We are currently in the week that we fast and mourn for the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed due to a lack of love, to senseless hatred. It is time to fix this mistake – it is time to reveal the true unity and love that Am Yisrael is capable of. It is time to reach across divides and differences, and care about each other simply as brethren, and as family. We may not always agree, but we always must remember and feel that we share an inner bond that is unbreakable, and that our foundation forever is a shared love of G-d and shared love for each other.

My thanks to Avi Shlomo for editing this article

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