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I Miss My Daughter!

Blog.jpgIt finally happened. 

After living in the US for 15 years, I finally did what Americans do in the summer: I sent my ten year old daughter daughter to overnight camp!

Now, I am still not a fan of the American three-month summer vacation, and I greatly prefer the South African system I grew up in, where the summer break is much shorter, but that's for another article. 

So, I sent my daughter to overnight camp for the very first time, and I had no idea how much I would miss her. It's not a very long camp, just two weeks, but boy do I miss her! I know she's having a wonderful, exciting time, but I've never been away from her for this long, ever!

A few days into camp she called, but could only speak for five minutes. As expected, she is playing hard, making new friends, and loving every minute. A week in we received a letter from her, and next week she already returns. I love her so much and I can't wait!

Now I have an inkling of how hard it is for our Father in Heaven when we are away "at camp."

You see, for 11 months of the year, most of us drift away from our Father. We are in "camp." We've been removed from spirituality, haven't interacted much with G-d, and haven't kept up with His commandments as well as we should have. 



G-d loves us so much - He misses us!

From time to time we may have made a quick "phone call" to G-d. We may have popped into shul, given a few token coins to tzeddakah or mumbled off some blessings by rote. We may have event "sent a letter," but for the most part we've been away. 

But come this Shabbat, we will be ushering in the new month of Elul with the blessing over the new moon. Elul signifies the end of "camp;" the time to return home. It's a month of repentance, and every day we listen the shofar being blown in order to awaken ourselves spiritually. 

And now I can imagine how excited G-d must be to greet us during this auspicious month. 

Let's go home. G-d misses us!

My Mother’s Accident

Blog.jpgWhen I think of dangerous activities which are likely to lead to injury, mountain climbing comes to mind. So do bungee jumping, paragliding and riding in a space shuttle.

What doesn’t come to mind is walking. In fact, I can think of few things safer!

My mother has been walking daily with her steady walking partner ever since I can remember. Probably at least 25 years. It’s the same route every single day, with the same walking partner, very close to her home. Without doubt, my mother knows every inch of her route by heart.

But this week my mother was hit by a car while walking.

She doesn’t carry her phone, so we cannot blame texting and walking. She was simply crossing a street where she had right of way, but the driver didn’t stop. It wasn’t deliberate and he wasn’t drunk. He wasn’t even driving fast! He simply wasn’t paying proper attention and so he knocked over my mother and her friend.

The driver (a family friend, in fact!) felt terrible and was deeply apologetic. But the damage was done. My mother fractured her foot and may need surgery to repair the damage. She will be on crutches or in a wheelchair for at least six weeks.

How could the least dangerous activity result in a broken leg? Only G-d knows that!

But here’s what I do know. If G-d wants to send us a message, it doesn’t matter where we are. We can be flying, driving, bungee jumping, paragliding or simply lying in bed. If G-d wants to, He will find us even when we’re doing something as innocuous as taking a morning walk.

In this week’s parsha we read the Shema—“Hear O Israel…G-d is one.”

What does it mean that G-d is one? G-d is present and prevalent in every part of our lives; not just the big events, but in every nook and cranny, every mundane and seemingly unimportant aspect. Nothing happens without G-d. He is active and manifested in our lives constantly.

What we need to do is open our eyes and ears, and watch closely to see what exactly G-d is trying to communicate.

What’s the message here? I can’t know for sure, but perhaps G-d wants my mother to slow down, take a short break from her hectic life, and relax for six weeks. 

She certainly deserves it (albeit without the broken leg)!

How Can I Trust You?

Blog.jpgA couple of weeks ago I flew to Israel with my family. As we waited to check in at JFK, juggling our five young children and multiple pieces of luggage, a stranger walked over and introduced himself. Being a Chabad rabbi, and very visible in my black hat and jacket, I am accustomed to being approached by strangers. But this man had something else on his mind.

Jack* was in JFK with his 12-year-old daughter who was flying alone to spend time with her cousins in Israel. The airlines considered her an unaccompanied minor, so Jack was looking for someone he could trust to take his daughter through security, onto the plane and through Ben Gurion at the other end. Of course we agreed to help him, and it turned out that his daughter was actually great help with our five kids. Win-win!

But we were some of the last few people to check in, so I asked Jack, "You must've waited here for a long time until you found someone you felt you could trust. Why did you pick us? Aren't we strangers just as much as the next person?"

"Yes, we arrived very early," he explained. "I've been standing here scanning passengers, trying to decide who I could trust with my precious child."

"What made you trust me?" I asked.

"Well, I see that you have five children, and I noticed the way you were holding and hugging your 2-year-old daughter. If that's how you take care of your daughter, especially in this harried situation, I know I can trust you."

      ---------

This weekend we will make the saddest day on the Jewish calendar-Tisha B'Av. On Tisha B'Av we commemorate the destruction of the first and second holy Beit Hamikdash. Although it's been almost 2,000 years since the second Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, we yearn for it to be rebuilt.

The Midrash tells us that G-d is waiting and yearning to build the third Beit Hamikdash for us, and on Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat before Tisha B'Av, our souls get a glimpse of it. So, if we are yearning for it, and G-d is yearning to give it to us, what is He waiting for?

He needs to know that He can trust us.

The last Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of Sinat Chinam-baseless hatred. So before we can receive the third and final Beit Hamikdash, we need to prove that we can do better.

How do we show G-d that He can trust us?

Like Jack* who was watching me, G-d is waiting for us to "hug" one another. We need to demonstrate our care, concern, love and appreciation for all our fellow Jews, regardless of how well we know them, how much we have in common, or how much we agree on.

G-d is waiting and watching to see how we treat one another. When He sees us loving one another unconditionally, He will again entrust us with the holy Beit Hamikdash and the Final Redemption.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Uriel Vigler

*Name changed to protect the individuals privacy.

I Have Sinned!

Blog.jpgThis week I committed a terrible sin, and I still feel awful when I think about it.

It was a typical day at our Chabad camp. Halfway through, lunch arrived from Eighteen restaurant. Passing through the kitchen shortly after lunch, I noticed some leftovers, so I took a plate and ate what appeared to be two falafel balls.

A couple of hours later my beloved, caring wife brought me lunch—a delicious, oozy, toasted cheese sandwich. I devoured it, recited the blessing we say upon finishing a meal, and continued with my work.

An hour or so later, my wife popped into my office and happened to notice the plate of "falafel" I had eaten earlier. She asked me if I'd eaten any, and when I confirmed that I had, she said, "You know, those are meatballs..."

I was shocked.

According to Jewish law one may not mix dairy and meat, and this extends to a waiting period of six hours after eating meat before one may eat dairy. And here I am, having just eaten a cheese sandwich only two hours after eating meat balls!

I was devastated.

The following day I confided in a friend of mine. The first thing he asked me is, "Rabbi, is that really the biggest sin you've ever committed?"

Then he asked what many people wonder. "Rabbi, I don't understand. Do you really thing G-d cares what you ate for lunch, or how much time you waited between your meals? Just dealing with Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton must keep Him busy on a full time basis. Not to mention all the other world events and national news we've been dealing with this summer. Terrorist attacks, a near coup in Turkey and all the unrest right here in America. With all this going on, do you really think G-d cares about your toasted cheese sandwich?"

My friend certainly has a point. But I asked him to consider what makes a marriage thrive. How does one maintain a relationship for many years? By focusing on the little things. It's imperative to keep giving small gifts, sharing meaningful compliments, thoughtful comments and spending time together on a regular basis. The grand yearly vacations and the exquisite anniversary gifts are nice. But not enough. It's the ongoing tiny gestures that build true intimacy and love.

Likewise, in our relationship with G-d, it's those small, everyday matters that keep our connection strong. Of course G-d is just as involved in the big decisions, like who will be the most powerful person in the world, but He cares just as much about my lunch. In fact, this week's Torah portion outlines the laws of keeping a kosher home.

So, why am I publically sharing my sin with you? Because if there is even one Jew who reads this and eats even one kosher meal as a result, it will help me repair my relationship with G-d.

So please help me repent!

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