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Visit to the ER

emergency.jpgLast week my son began complaining about pain in his leg. After a few days with no relief we

decided it was time to see a doctor. The doctor examined him and said, “This is a very serious

disease. He definitely needs surgery. Please take him to the emergency room right now.”

As a father of eight, I am unfortunately no stranger to NYC emergency rooms. I hate them, but

an order is an order. I double checked but the doctor assured me that she knows what she’s

talking about, and even agreed to record a message for my wife regarding the urgency of the



So there I found myself, on a busy Sunday, already in the midst of dozens of deadlines and other

urgent matters, and all that has to be pushed aside because my son’s health obviously takes


Thank G-d the ER was mostly empty and we were able to see a doctor immediately.


Imagine my surprise—and relief—to hear this doctor tell me that my son absolutely did not have

the disease the other doctor diagnosed, and would certainly not need surgery. Nevertheless, since

we were there already, they insisted on running some time-consuming tests. Protocol.


After an x-ray, blood work, and a few other medical exams, we got a clean bill of health and

returned home.


I began to wonder why I had trusted that first doctor so much. Why didn’t I just march my son

back home to bed?

Because the doctor has years of medical training, and I do not. So I trust her opinion.


I just wish others would listen to my rabbinical advice the same way I listen to the doctor! After

all, I too have years of training and years of experience working in the field.

A guy comes to me with marital problems. I advise him to schedule a date night (or morning) out

of the house with his wife every week, and make sure nothing gets in the way. Stop shouting at

her, treat her well, and you will begin to feel lovingly towards her again. I also suggest they

begin keeping the family purity laws, but they confidently reassure me that there is absolutely no

chance of that.


Another guy comes to me with serious business problems. I recommend he pray and put on

tefillin daily, but he argues that he sees no connection. I ask myself, do I argue with my doctor

when she sends me to the ER which is a lot more inconvenient than putting on tefillin each

morning?! I do not. I follow orders. So why is my advice questioned? Why am I not trusted?


To a woman with heart problems, I suggest installing mezuzot on all the doors in her house.

“I just bought one for the front door,” she argues.  

“We need them on every door,” I insist.

I beg and I plead and begrudgingly she agrees.

Why must I fight? Why doesn’t she listen?

This is how it is with spirituality. We struggled to accept what the Torah says. That’s our

challenge. But by reframing it, and realizing how readily we accept advice from other experts,

surely we can become better at readily accepting the Torah’s wisdom. It’s for our own benefit,

after all!

Pittsburgh: Shaken to Our Core

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 3.00.24 PM.pngParis. Tel Aviv. Toulouse. Mumbai. Brussels. Djerba. Copenhagen. Jerusalem. Kansas City. And now, Pittsburgh.

The incomprehensible murder of 11 Jews this week has violently ripped open a permanent hole in the lives of the families and friends of those killed, and indeed, Jews across the world.

Like so many others, I find myself asking, “What now?”

How do we process this tragedy? How do we return to our lives in its aftermath? Do we cower in fear? What changes do we make?

Our sages teach that the power of goodness and kindness is infinitely stronger than the power of evil. “A small amount of light dispels much darkness” is not merely an adage—it is the starting point for illuminating our lives and ultimately transforming the entire world.

About the Jewish people, Song of Songs says, “I am sleeping, but my heart is awake.”


When I look at the way the global Jewish community has reacted to the Pittsburgh massacre, I see an awakening. And if an anti-Semitic lunatic, through a single act of baseless hatred, can awaken the hearts of Jews in Singapore, Cape Town, Sydney, New York, and across the entire globe, can you imagine what we can accomplish with any single act of baseless love?

If Robert Bowers, a high school dropout, can sow fear across the entire world with darkness and violence, can you imagine how much joy and peace we, the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, can spread throughout the world by lighting Shabbat candles this week?


If a deranged lunatic with a rifle and two handguns could perform the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in American history while shouting “Death to all Jews!” imagine what you and I could accomplish while shouting “I love all Jews!”

This tragedy has united Jews from across the spectrum of observance. We are all mourning the 11 holy Jews, killed because they chose to celebrate their Judaism in shul, on Shabbat, as Jews have done for millennia. Can you imagine how much unity we can generate, and how many Jews we can bring to shul with love, a phone call, and a bowl of warm cholent? 

This is our responsibility now: to reach out to any Jew we come across and welcome him or her with open arms and an open heart. We cannot allow Robert Bower’s act of terrorism to scare us away. We must go to shul, wear our Judaism outwardly with pride, engage with the community, and remember that although our people have faced deep anti-Semitism since the beginning of time, we have not—and cannot now—allow it to prevent us from embracing our heritage.

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