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Hamas Refuses To Release His Body!

Blog.jpgLast week we had the privilege of hosting Simha and Leah Goldin, whose son Hadar was murdered in August 2014.

The family’s grief and loss is all the more painful because Hamas kidnapped Hadar’s body and continues to hold it captive, presumably as a bargaining chip for some future exchange of prisoners. 

The Goldin family have experienced the unspeakable pain of not only losing a beloved son in war, but the additional agony of not being able to bury his body properly.

On Shabbat, Simha shared some thoughts with our congregation:

After the destruction of the second Temple, many Jews remained in the city of Beitar. The Romans killed them all, and were so angry that they refused to allow their bodies to be buried.

After some time, a new ruler was appointed who finally allowed the burial. In response, our sages instituted the blessing of “HaTov VeHameitiv,” thanking G-d for His goodness in allowing these Jews to be put to rest.

In Judaism, burial is so important that our sages actually instituted an entire blessing that we continue to say 2,000 years later!

Why is it so important to bury a body? Because the body comes from the dust, and that is where it needs to return in order to find eternal rest. 

The mitzvah of burying a Jewish person is called “chesed shel emet” which means true kindness, because it can never be repaid. It is purely an act of benevolence to someone who has now moved on to the next world, and cannot in any way reciprocate the favor.

Surely, we too can all find ways to show kindness to others in lives without expecting any kind of reciprocity.

We hope and pray that Simha (which means happiness) and Leah Goldin will very soon be able to perform chesed shel emet for their son Hadar, and experience the small measure of comfort that having a grave to pray at will bring.

Then Simha and Leah will be able to make the blessing of HaTov VeHameitiv wholeheartedly, because G-d will have shown them this kindness.

I am tired of fake news. Aren't you?

Blog.pngIn our current 24-hour news climate, people are ever more tuned in to the news—good news, bad news, local news, international news, and of course, politics.

Social media has completely revamped the way people receive and share news, which has led to the extensive propagation of “fake news”–arguably this month’s buzz word.

In fact, according to analysts, fake news about US politics accounted for a staggering 50% of the many, many millions of likes, shares, reactions, and comments that English-language stories generated on Facebook this year.

In recent months, as awareness of just how extensively fraudulent news has been passed around and treated as truth has grown, there has been an outcry from the American public, demanding more clarity and honesty from the media. The people want the truth! And Mark Zuckerberg is committed to using his platform, Facebook, to give it to them.                                                                         -------

When the Jews gathered at the foot of Mount Sinai, ready for the greatest spiritual revelation of all time—the Giving of the Torah, they had one demand. “We don’t want fake news,” they said, “We want the Real Thing. We demand to see our King! And the only way to guarantee that, is to hear it from the One True Source—G-d Himself.” They did not want Moses to be the go-between; they wanted to hear the Ten Commandments directly from G-d.

We, too, ought to demand the truth. We ought to demand that G-d reveal Himself to us and show us the truth hidden beneath the world’s physical veneer. We’re sick of the fake news. No more lies, no more corruption, no more temptation. We want to see our King, the ultimate source of Truth, reveal Himself immediately, at the ultimate “press conference”.

Almighty G-d, we are waiting to hear from you now!

I was woken at 3am on Shabbat!

Blog.jpgI was looking forward to sleeping in a little this past Shabbat morning. We hosted guests Friday night and went to bed late, looking forward to getting some rest on the day of rest.

At 3:03am I was sharply jolted awake by my highly effective alarm clock.

I recalled that earlier, before Shabbat, I'd noticed my five-year-old son Zalman playing with the alarm, but I hadn't paid much attention. Clearly, I should have!

Couldn't he have set it for 8:03am?! Or set it any other day of the week when I could simply turn it off, roll over, and go back to sleep? Alas, on Shabbat that is not an option. On the one day of rest, I cannot mute my alarm to go back to resting—how ironic!

Moreover, this is no quick and quiet alarm clock—the type that turns itself off after a minute or two. Mine starts out quietly and becomes increasingly louder the longer it rings. 

I tried covering it with pillows and blankets—I must've collected all the pillows in the house!—but still it rang loud and clear. After 25 minutes, I succumbed and decided my best option would be to get up and begin my day of "rest".

In next week's Torah portion the Jews gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. This was the climax of all creation, the very reason for the world's existence. And to begin the grand event, G-d blew a shofar. When a human blows the shofar, it begins loudly, gradually weakening and tapering off. But when G-d blew the shofar, it began softly and gradually gained strength, becoming louder and louder.

G-d wants to help us become accustomed to spirituality in a way that we absorb—one step at a time. First, He gives us a small spoonful, gradually increasing it until we can tolerate a full dosage of G-dliness.

There is a tremendous lesson here. We all have to increase our spirituality daily. We cannot be content with what we accomplished yesterday. If yesterday we did one mitzvah, today we must do two. Like the shofar increasing in resonance, we need to increase the light, spirituality, and G-dliness in our lives each day.

So go out and increase the volume!

Immigration Ban

Blog.jpgVirtually everyone was talking about the immigration ban. 

The country was bitterly divided, wracked with chaos and havoc. Half the citizens felt that the immigrants were terrorists and wanted them out immediately, and at any cost, while the other half felt that as skilled workers, the immigrants would benefit their country financially. 

The immigrants were all Middle Eastern. 

Protests erupted all over the country. 

This led to civil war. Brother turned against brother. Tens of thousands of people were killed. 

The Jews had been enslaved in Egypt for 210 years. After nine devastating plagues befell Pharaoh and the Egyptians, Moses warned Pharaoh that the next plague would kill all the firstborns in the land. 

Hence, all the firstborns wanted the Jews to leave immediately. The Jews had caused too much damage, they said. They turned the Nile into blood, brought frogs, lice, wild animals, locusts, and painful boils upon them, and now the firstborns were to die? How much more terror and devastation could they take?

But the rest of the people saw value in retaining the Jews as slaves and weren't remotely interested in letting them go. They'd built cities and pyramids for free—what could be better for the economy?

This was the very first immigration ban. 

Ultimately, the Jews left Egypt at G-d's behest and were brought to the Land of Israel.  

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In just a few days we mark the passing of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe. Very shortly before his passing he gave a Chassidic discourse which began with the words “I have come into my garden.” A year later, when the Rebbe took over the Chabad movement, he explained that these words are the mission statement of our generation.

G-d wants us to take the world and make it into a home for Him—a better, brighter place.

According to Chassidic teaching, Egypt is the only country in the world that G-d banned us from living within. Why? We have already fulfilled our mission there. Throughout the long years of exile, our ancestors found and elevated every single spark of G-dliness He planted there.  

I have friends who are extremely passionate about the current immigration ban, and I love all my friends. As a rabbi, my job is not to take sides, but to remind my friends and congregants that there is a Boss even higher than the president of the United States—our Father in Heaven. He is the one who has ruled the world since its creation, He is the one Who led us out Egypt and He will surely lead us to peace and prosperity in 2017. 

"Hearts of kings are in the hands of G-d, and He turns them whichever way He desires" (Proverbs 21:1). So, this Shabbat, let us congregate at shul and pray that G-d guide this administration to do what is right and just in a way that will bring G-d's presence into the world, to make it a home for Him and to make this "garden" into a better, brighter place. 

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