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Should Bibi Speak in Congress?

If I were to ask you, a recipient of my weekly email, whether you think Bibi Netanyahu should speak in Congress next week, I would probably get the full gamut of responses.

Some would insist that of course he should speak;after all, we need to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear power. Others will say that Bibi is wrong for angering the White House and Obama; we need Obama on our side. Still others feel that nothing will be achieved by this speech, so why bother?

In fact, on Facebook I have friends voting for Bennet, friends voting for Likud and others for Meretz, Yachad, Shas and Livni. I even have a relative who tells me she cannot identify with any party and is not going to vote at all. I’ve been watching raging arguments break out on social media as people express their outrage and try to convince everyone to see things the way they do.

You know the old joke about the Jew who gets stranded on a deserted island. Finally, after many long months, he is rescued. His rescuers are surprised to see two rather large buildings on the island.

“What are these?” they ask.

He points to one of the buildings. “That’s the synagogue I built when I first arrived.”

“What’s the other one?” they probe.

“That’s also a synagogue.”

“But why do you need two synagogues? It’s only you here!” they asked.

“Are you kidding me?” he replied angrily. “That one over there, I wouldn’t walk into if you paid me!”

It’s ok for us Jews to have differing opinions. That’s perfectly acceptable. But when the difference of opinion leads to venom and animosity, then it becomes a problem.

Loving our fellow Jews means loving them regardless of which party they vote for. It means loving them even if they hate Bibi Netanyahu. I may disagree ideologically, I may know that he or she is 100% wrong, but I love and respect the person nonetheless.

Do I think Bibi should speak in Congress? Do I think it will stop Iran from developing their nuclear bomb? That, I don’t know. But I do know that the Jewish nation has an invincible weapon that can certainly protect us from it. Unity. When we are truly united, we cannot be destroyed.

Of course, we need the IDF. We need a strong army and powerful weapons. We need to do everything in power to protect ourselves, but ultimately G-d decides. And when He sees that despite our vastly differing opinions we are united, we become indestructible.

We are about to celebrate the holiday of Purim, when it’s traditional to disguise ourselves with costumes and masks. Why? When we dress up we show that there is a part of us that remains hidden. My outer self, the one usually on display, is not everything. The real me, and the real you, we are unified. We love each other. It’s only our external selves that are currently arguing. 

Try to recall the incredible unity our nation displayed last summer as we prayed for the missing Israeli boys. And the incredible unity we showed at the funerals for the lone soldiers. That is when we showed our true colors. We have done it before and we can do it again. We are, at heart, a nation that cares. 

Should we all Move to Israel?

A Jew killed in Denmark.

Jewish graves vandalized in France.

A four-year-old girl buried in Israel this week as a result of a terrorist attack.

Four Jews killed in a supermarket in France.

A nuclear bomb being built in Iran which threatens Israel's very existence.

Anti-Semitism is rampant. Where are we safe? What should we do?

Some leaders are calling for European Jewry to emigrate en masse to Israel.

Is that the answer?

We are currently in the Jewish month of Adar, during which we celebrate Purim and read the Book of Esther.

At that time, the Jews were facing an existential threat. All Jews living at the time were included in  Achashverosh's dominion, and hence in Haman's decree. Every single living Jew was threatened with annihilation.

And when Mordechai and Ester found out about the decree, what did they do?

"Go, and gather all the Jews!" Esther said. "Fast, pray, learn Torah, do mitzvot and return to Hashem."

So Mordechai gathered the Jews and rekindled their faith and their love of G-d.

The answer is to display our Judaism proudly. To increase our faith in our Father in Heaven. It saved the Jews from Haman's decree all those years ago, and it is our answer today.

Whether we live in Denmark or France or Israel, we can learn from Mordechai and Esther.

Let's be proud of our heritage. Let's display it proudly and not hide it!

Do Not Lie!

This week Americans watched the stunning downfall of journalist Brian Williams. Williams was the anchor of NBC's nightly news, watched and trusted by millions, for the last 10 years-a real media darling.

But recently his integrity came under fire after one of his stories began to change. Sadly, it turns out that he fabricated stories about being hit by an RPG in Iraq and seeing bodies float by his hotel room during Hurricane Katrina.

NBC suspended him for six months, which will very possibly end his journalistic career.

Interestingly, in this week's Torah portion we are instructed, "midvar sheker tirchak," - "distance yourselves from falsehoods." In fact, the first question a person is asked when brought before the Heavenly court is, "Were you honest in your business dealings?"

It's clear: regardless of our occupation, we need to tell the truth. No lying, no cheating, no misrepresenting facts.

So what would lead someone like Brian Williams to lie and lose the trust of millions of Americans?

According to the Talmud, babies are born with their fists clenched, signifying the natural human desire to become famous, powerful and well-known.

And perhaps this is what pushed Williams to embellish to the point of fabrication. He wanted to be the one with the most incredible stories; the one everyone would listen to with bated breath and admiration. He wanted the most interesting and personal angle on some of the biggest stories in the last decade.

The Talmud continues to explain that when we die, it is with our hands open and our palms outstretched, signifying that we take nothing to the grave-no power, fame or money. The only things we take with us are the Torah study and mitzvot we have accumulated throughout our lives.

The kindnesses we show others, the tzeddakah we gave, the prayers we recited, the people we helped-this is what we take with us to the next world, and this is what we should strive to increase.

It's easy to get bogged down, and roped in by our strong inclination for fame and power, but Williams serves as a reminder to us: stay honest and truthful, and focus on what really counts. 

Be a Mentsch!

*Natalie is warm, kind, caring, compassionate, friendly and intelligent. She has a good job and comes from a wonderful family. She’s 34 years old and not yet married.

Having known Natalie for the last 10 years, I can say with confidence that any man who marries her will be lucky. She will make an incredible wife and mother.

So why isn’t she married yet? I don’t know. She’s been dating and doing all the right things but simply hasn’t found the right one yet.

This week Natalie called me for advice. “I’ve been dating *Brian for last 18 months,” she explained, “and I really like him. I know he would make a great husband and father.”

Now, I know Brian because they’ve come to some of our events together, and from what I see I agree with Natalie—they seems well suited and I think it could be a good marriage.

So I told Natalie, “Nu? When are you going to take the plunge?”

Natalie began to cry. “I’m ready to marry Brian, but every time I bring up the ‘marriage conversation’ he changes the topic or laughs about it. He says he’s not ready yet and I don’t want to push him away by asking for a commitment. What should I do? Is it normal for a guy to be so unwilling to commit after more than a year of dating?”

Not ready? This guy is already in his 40s! When will he be ready? What is he waiting for?

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the Jewish people receiving the Torah from G-d. The entire Jewish people —several million people—stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and accepted the Torah, thereby becoming a nation.

Being Jewish doesn’t mean working through a checklist of “must do's.” Judaism is something that needs to permeate our very beings. Every minute of every day we should be working to be actively Jewish. Being Jewish doesn’t mean just going to shul or praying or keeping a few mitzvahs. Being Jewish means being a mentsch 24/7.

I know that Brian doesn’t intend to be unkind. He is a good person! He simply doesn’t realize the hurt he is causing his girlfriend.

If you have no intention of actually taking the plunge, don’t string along a young woman who is desperately ready to get married and begin raising a family. First get some therapy, and then date her like a mentsch.

Let’s all take a lesson from the parsha. Being Jewish means being a mensch in every aspect, and being a mensch is something we need to do 24/7.

Have a wonderful Shabbat!

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