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Meet “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” and “Angry”

Blog.jpgThis week I logged into my Facebook account and lo and behold, there’s a brand new feature. Until now, the only options (other than commenting) were to either “like” something or ignore it entirely. But there are so many situations which call for more than that.

When my friend had a new baby, the “like” button was insufficient. I didn’t just like the news, I loved it!

And how to respond to someone’s heartfelt, beautifully-written eulogy for a recently passed loved one? “Liking” seems wrong, because I certainly don’t “like” their loss. But I don’t want to ignore it either.

Likewise, when I was shocked to see which presidential candidate a friend supports, I had no means of expressing my outrage.

Finally, this week, Facebook presented a solution. Meet “reactions.” Now, users can choose to react to a post with either: “Love,” “Haha,” “Wow,” “Sad,” or “Angry.”

As Jews, we can learn a lot from this.

The problem with “like,” is that it contains no emotion. It’s too dry. We need more passion than a passive “like,”

 Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that so far, “love” is by far the most popular of the new buttons. People don’t just want to “like” something; they want to “love” it.

We read in the Shema prayer daily, “And you shall love the L-rd your G-d.” Judaism demands passion and vibrancy. It’s not enough to just “like” G-d, we have to love Him.

We need to find our passion for doing mitvot, like going to shul, learning Torah and putting on tefillin.

We need to feel fiery about helping our less fortunate brothers and sisters. 

We need to yearn for Shabbat, its rest and holiness.

We need to find that love, for G-d and His mitzvot, and apply it to our lives. Display passion!

But what happens when we don’t love Him?

That’s why we have the other options: “Sad,” Angry,” etc.

It’s better to be angry, than to not feel at all. Any passion, even anger toward G-d, is better than lack of feeling. As long as there is passion and feeling, there is a relationship. Without a relationship, we’re in trouble.

So, how’s your relationship with G-d?

One Eighth Jewish

Blog.jpgLast week my friend Sam called with great news. “Rabbi,” he said, “I had a very important business meeting with a client yesterday, so I scheduled a lunch meeting. Instead of meeting at a non-kosher restaurant, I decided to go to a kosher one. I assumed my Italian client wouldn’t mind.

“We met at the restaurant. The food was great; the meeting productive. I was pleased the food was good, because people often complain about the kosher food. 

“‘Why did you choose this restaurant?’ my client asked.

“‘This restaurant is kosher and I’m Jewish. That’s what Jews do,’ I explained.

“‘I’m one eighth Jewish,’ explained my client.”

One eighth Jewish? My friend Sam has been hanging out at Chabad long enough to know he needed to find out which eighth. So he asked her, and it turned out that her maternal great-grandmother was Jewish, making her 100% Jewish too. 

This is a woman in her mid-50s, living in New York City, home to hundreds of thousands of Jews, and never before had she known that she, too, is Jewish. 

Our sages tell us that one mitzvah leads to another. When a person chooses to do even just one mitzvah, G-d helps that person do another one and then another. 

Sam chose a kosher restaurant for his meeting. By doing the mitzvah of keeping kosher, G-d led him to another mitzvah: helping another Jew discover that she is Jewish. 

And guess which mitzvah our Italian friend is going to do this Friday night? She’ll be lighting the Shabbat candles for the first time in her life!

What is your Mitzvah for today? 

So, What do the Polls Say?

Blog.jpgThe race to the White House is on! It's full steam ahead to see who will become the next leader of the most powerful country in the world.

The media has been focusing on the candidates and debates for several months, with a particular spotlight on the polls. Every time I turn on my computer lately, I see polls, polls and more polls.

They want to know who I'm voting for and who I'm most passionate about.

But that's not all. One poll is certainly not sufficient in this poll-obsessed America. Oh, no. There are polls in each state. What do the polls say in Iowa? New Hampshire? South Carolina? Florida?

And it doesn't end there. People are polled in every conceivable category. Men, women. First time voters, voters younger than 45, voters between 45 and 64, voters older than 64. Voters with a college degree, voters without a college degree. Registered voters, non registered voters. Voters who are liberal, moderate, conservative, or very conservative. Voters who are gun owners and voters who are non gun owners. Voters with income under $200,000 and voters who earn more than $200,000.

Watching all these polls and how obsessed Americans are with them, I realized there is a tremendous lesson here, which we can all utilize.

As Jews, the campaign for our big leader began in this week's Torah portion with the commandment, "Build for Me a sanctuary." This is the origin of the race to bring Moshiach, who will be the most powerful king to ever live. He is the one who will build G-d's White House—the third Temple in Jerusalem.

And so, as the race continues, we need to make sure we are polling ourselves.

Ask yourself: How am I doing as a Jew today? Am I a better Jew than I was yesterday? How passionate am I about Torah and mitzvot?

In fact, a general poll is not enough. We need to poll ourselves in every aspect of our lives. How is my kosher observance? How is my Shabbat observance? What is my tefillin status? Did I give charity today? Have I been lighting Shabbat candles at the right time?

We also need to consider others in our polls. What about my spouse? What about my kids? How deeply do I care if my children have a Jewish education?

We all—liberal Jews, democrat Jews, republican Jews, conservative Jews, moderate Jews—need to poll ourselves obsessively, to ensure we improve daily. Just because yesterday I polled myself and determined that I am a good Jew, doesn't mean that tomorrow the polls won't change. Maybe they will. Today, I cannot be the same Jew I was yesterday. And tomorrow I cannot be the same Jew I am today. We need to be constantly bettering ourselves and adding mitzvot to our arsenal.

So, nu? Who are you voting for?

Are You Sophisticated?

dating.blind.date.jpgA few weeks ago we hosted a beautiful Friday night dinner, at which Iintroduced Todd* to Alexi*. I noticed that Todd spoke to Alexi for no more than five minutes before moving on and sitting down. 

A few days later I called him and asked, “Nu, what do you think of Alexi? Would you like to go out with her?”

“Nah, she’s not really my type,” he said. 

“What do you mean? She’s a wonderful, good-hearted young woman, with a warm and friendly personality.”

“Thanks, rabbi, but really, she’s not my type.”

“Are you sure? She’s also intelligent and attractive. What exactly are you referring to when you say she’s not your type?”

Finally, Todd explained, "She’s not sophisticated enough for me."

Ah, sophisticated. That’s a new one for me! 

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The midrash explains why Moshe, the greatest prophet in the history of the world, chose Tzippora as his bride. Why? Because she behaved simply and with humility. 

Now, simple does not mean stupid. Tzippora was highly intelligent, but she felt no need to satiate her ego by being in the limelight. In fact, while Moshe is mentioned hundreds of times in the Torah, Tzippora is mentioned only three times. She was content to live a quiet and unassuming life. 

Once upon a time, people would say yes or no for the right reasons, based on important, fundamental principles. Now, we are quick to pass judgment for all the wrong reasons. Today, our answers are clouded by “sophisticated” judgment, social pressure and social media. 

And our “sophisticated” thinking is not working to our advantage. 

My friend Chaim*, a 42-year-old bachelor, has been dating a wonderful 36-year-old woman for the past two months. I asked him, “Are you attracted to her?” But he is still not sure. 

It seems we are less and less sure of everything these days. 

Ask a Jew praying in shul, “Do you believe in G-d? Are you religious?” Good luck getting a definitive answer!

When the Jews were asked to accept the Torah, they responded immediately, “We will do and we will hear.” It was simple. 

We have since become a “sophisticated” people, but maybe it’s time to take a step back, and learn to appreciative simplicity again.  

*Names changed to protect privacy

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