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Record Run in Central Park

Blog.JPGThis morning I ran 5.1 miles around Central Park, in 90 degree weather, at 5:30am. For me, that was a record run. Now, before all you marathoners out there start laughing, keep in mind that I am a novice runner, whose maximum until now, when I really push myself, has been 3 miles. My extra 2.1 miles is proportionally like you adding an extra 20 miles to your marathon!

Why did I push myself today?

I wasn’t running alone. I was with James*, an elite IDF soldier wounded in combat three times. He has no vision in one way, experiences perpetual pain in his hand, legs, and ribs, and suffers with chronic PTSD. The only thing that helps him forget his pain is running. And so we ran.

At the two mile point, I felt like I had run as much as I could, but then I looked at James and thought to myself, if he can do it, how can I stop? So I kept running. After four miles, my entire body was aching, but I managed to get to 5.1 in decent time.

In this week’s Torah portion we read about the Jews’ travels through the desert. Our sages teach that their journeys represent our spiritual journeys. Each mitzvah we do is a journey, each time we push ourselves to do something outside our comfort zone we travel closer to our destination—the Final redemption.

When you are used to putting on tefillin once a week, and then you increase to twice a week, you are surging forward. When you don’t keep Shabbat but commit to lighting candles each week at the correct time, you are closing in on the goal. When you are accustomed to giving 5% of your earning to charity and you start giving 10%, you are bridging the distance between exile and redemption.

We all have a spiritual comfort level, and sometimes we need an extra push to get us to the next level, just like I did with my running. It’s hard. It’s scary. It’s different. We haven’t done it before. There are so many reasons not to. But when we push beyond what’s familiar, beyond what’s easy and comfortable, that’s when we progress, like the Jews in the desert, towards our destination–the final Redemption and the coming of Moshiach.

Shine Your Light

Blog.jpgThis week I toured the United Nations together with 12 IDF soldiers who were wounded while protecting Israel's freedom. It's no secret that Israel and IDF soldiers are highly unpopular at the UN. In fact, right outside we saw a large sign about the Holocaust, and right next to it another sign likening Israel's "crimes" to the atrocities of the Holocaust.

This is the place that the Lubavitcher Rebbe called a house of lies.

In 1984 the Rebbe told Benjamin Netanyahu, "Remember that in a hall of perfect darkness, if you light one small candle, its precious light will be seen from afar, by everyone. Your mission is to light a candle of truth for the Jewish people."

I was glad to have the opportunity to visit the UN with the IDF soldiers, bringing our own light to this hall of darkness.  

The midrash compares the Jewish nation to a lone sheep  among 70 wolves. Indeed, we are surrounded by those who wish to destroy us, which is more apparent than ever at the UN.

In this week's Haftara we read about the prophet Jeremiah who led the Jewish people in the years leading up the destruction of the Temple and the exile of the people—at a time of immense spiritual darkness.

Jeremiah did not feel equipped for the task, protesting, “Alas, O L‑rd G‑d! Behold, I know not to speak, for I am a youth.”

G‑d reassured Jeremiah, promising to grant him the power to lead through the tempest: “Say not, ‘I am a youth,’ for wherever I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you, you shall speak.”

Like Jeremiah, we often question our ability to bring light and spiritual warmth to the world. But we know that G-d's words of reassurance apply to us too.

Each and every soul is like a prophet, carrying the Divine message to this world. Each of us has the power to inspire all those we touch. We were sent to the world to do just that. 

Solving the Western Wall Controversy

Blog.jpgIf you follow Israeli news, you've probably seen much controversy regarding prayers at the Western Wall as of late. The discussions have become so heated that leading American donor, Isaac Fisher, has suspended all philanthropic contributions to Israel until the issue is resolved.

Today, 12 Tammuz, is the birthday of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, and also the day he was released from prison years later, making it a day of significance and celebration for Chassidim.

As a child of 13, the Previous Rebbe asked his father, the Rebbe Rashab, "Why do we say, 'I am ready to fulfill the obligation to love my fellow Jews' at the start of each day before morning prayers?"

"When a father has many children," the Rebbe Rashab explained, "his greatest pleasure is to see his children getting along." So before we pray to G-d and ask for His blessings of health, happiness, financial security, etc., we tell Him that we are committed to loving our brothers and sisters—all our fellow Jews—which is G-d's greatest pleasure.

The Kotel is the holiest Jewish site in existence. It’s the place where Jews have been praying for thousands of years. The place which King David purchased fair and square, where Jacob lay down and dreamed of the ladder with angels ascending and descending, where King Solomon built the Temple in which we gathered and served G-d for hundreds of years. It's the place that has been central to our prayers for 2,000 years.

As Jews we have different opinions, as we have had since the beginning of time. And that's ok. The key to resolving our current “Kotel conflict” is to collectively recite that “I hereby am ready to fulfill the commandment of loving a fellow Jew.”

When we overcome our differences and come together in unity and peace, we give our Father in Heaven the biggest gift possible. Especially at the Kotel. Let's commit!

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