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Stranded on the Highway

log.jpgLike most students, I didn’t have access to a car during my yeshiva years in Israel. This meant riding multiple busses and hitching rides anytime I needed to go out. Often I’d end up waiting at the side of the road for long periods of time before anyone stopped, and I promised myself that in the future when I would be in the position to do so, I would make sure to give rides to people I saw waiting.

As it turns out, I usually have a full car when I travel, and although I see people who need rides and really wish I could help them, I cannot. But last week we travelled to Monsey for Shabbos for my brother’s sheva brachos. We no longer all fit into our minivan, since the blessing of our triplets a few months ago, so my wife drove the minivan with all the car seats, and I borrowed a car and took two of the older kids with me.

On the way, we passed an accident at the side of the road that had stranded a chassidic couple. I stopped the car to see if I could help. They, too, were on their way to Monsey for Shabbos, passengers in a taxi which had been rear-ended. The driver had phoned police to file a report, but as we all know, small accidents are not police priority and it can take a long time for them to show up. In the meantime, this couple had a young baby and might not be able to get to Monsey in time.

So, I offered them a ride.

The taxi driver panicked and refused to let them go, insisting the police may need them for the report. After checking and assuring him that this was not the case, he allowed me to take them. I drove them to their door, about 20 minutes out of my way, and I felt good being able to give a ride just as I had needed all those years ago. I haven’t forgotten the feeling.

There are many pleasures in life. You can eat a good steak, watch a beautiful sunset, engage in intellectual debate…but one of the deepest pleasures that exists is that of giving to others.

Giving makes us G-dly, because G-d is the ultimate giver. By giving of ourselves to others we 1channel our innate G-dliness and bring it to the surface, which is what makes it so rewarding.

However fortunate we may be now, let us not forget what it feels like to need, and may that be the impetus to seek out others and help them, allowing us to experience the true pleasure of giving.

Kites: Friend or Foe?

Blog.pngFor most, kites bring to mind breezy summer afternoons and carefree, childish delight.

Certainly, they are not commonly associated with terrorism. But in Israel right now, that’s exactly how they are being used.

Terrorists in Gaza have been flying fire-bearing kites across the border into Israel at the height of harvesting season, obliterating over 7000 acres of farmland in some 450 blazes resulting in millions of dollars in damage.

Israel is hot and dry, and it doesn’t take much to ignite a fire. A small kite attached to some hot coals or a Molotov cocktail is more than sufficient to do tremendous damage.

There is no question that Israel’s security systems are among the most advanced and high-tech in the world. They can detect and intercept air missiles and underground tunnels with record precision, but the kites are so small and light they are virtually undetectable. A simple child’s toy has managed to confound one of the world’s most advanced militaries.

So far, Israel has no solution.

Often, the simplest things can be the most powerful.

Surely the IDF will quickly figure out how to combat this new threat, but in the meantime, is there something we can learn from it?

For me, it’s that sometimes the smallest things—the ones that are so easy to discount—can be the most powerful.

When it comes to our relationship with G-d, we look to cover ourselves with the big things. Fasting on Yom Kippur? That’s a huge one! Of course I’ll do that. Making a Pesach Seder? Definitely! Brit Milah for my son? What’s the question? I am Jewish! 

But when it comes to the things we perceive as small, the day-to-day commitments, it’s easier to bow out. Learning Torah? That’s not for me. Praying daily? I’m busy in the mornings. Putting on tefillin? Once in a while is enough. I don’t need those—I do the big things!

“I am a good Jew in my heart,” people often tell me. “I feel G-d, I love Him. Why do I need to do the small things every day?”

While the big things are certainly important—and doing something is always better than doing nothing—let’s not discount the power of each small action, each mitzvah, that we do every day.

A mitzvah is what connects us to G-d. It’s how we ignite and maintain our relationship with Him. Just like a small plastic kite can instantly ignite a field, burning 1400 acres of wheat, by firing up our connection with G-d multiple times a day we can create and sustain an unquantifiable spiritual fire fusing our relationship with Him in a way that only sticking to the “big things” cannot.

So, nu, fire up your connection to G-d today!

Kim Jong Un, Donald Trump, and Moshiach

image1.jpegThis week, along with much of the developed world, I watched the most powerful leader on Earth—President Donald Trump—meet with the most evil one—North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un.

The US and North Korea have been at war since 1950, and in recent years tensions have risen, giving serious indication that nuclear war might be on the horizon. Just months ago the countries’ leaders were publicly hurling insults at each other!

So what changed? How do you go from Trump calling Kim “rocket man” and threatening “fire and fury” to a historic summit where you shake hands and make radical commitments to peace? 

Every single event that transpires in this world is orchestrated by Divine providence. Nothing happens without G-d’s involvement. And especially events that occur with world leaders and nuclear powers.

It is clear that this meeting indicates the imminent coming of Moshiach.

When Moshiach comes, there will be world peace. No murder, rape, crime? It’s hard to imagine, given the current state of the world. But in Isaiah G-d promises, “...they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against another nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

Indeed, this is what happened this week. President Trump showed Chairman Kim a video that instead of having weapons of mass destruction, he could build beautiful, profitable condos on his beaches, and engineer medical breakthroughs and innovative technologies, precisely as the verse promises.

Since we are in the period immediately preceding the coming of Moshiach, we can already see the influence Moshiach wields over word leaders. The hearts and minds of all rulers are in the hands of the Almighty and He alone put into their heads the desire to denuclearize.

This Shabbat we mark the 24th yahrzeit of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe promised us that the coming of Moshiach is imminent; we are the last generation of exile. Every day we pray, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of Moshiach, and though he may tarry, I await his coming every day.” May our prayers be answered, and may the process that has begun snowball so that there truly will be no more war, no hatred, no violence or animosity. May the prophecies awaiting fulfillment come to fruition before our eyes, so we can celebrate together in Jerusalem very soon.

* This essay is based on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s talk on Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim 1992. 

Sometimes It’s Okay to Speed

o-POLICE-SIREN-facebook.jpgIt was close to midnightSaturday night, as I drove from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv on my way back from the Kotel.

I noticed a police car behind me, but I wasn’t concerned. I was wearing my seatbelt and driving below the speed limit. I was not using my cell phone or doing anything else wrong.

The police car continued to trail me, so I switched lanes to let it pass. But it didn’t. 

Still, I wasn’t fazed. I knew I was driving safely and legally.

Some minutes later, the lights began to flash and I pulled over, wondering, “Really? What did I do?”

A policeman approached my window. “License and registration,” he barked.

“Good evening, officer, is there a problem? Did I do something wrong?” I asked in English.

“Oh! You are from America,” he said. “That explains it.”

Apparently, I had been driving too well, following the rules a little too closely, to the point that he assumed I must be hiding something!

What a lark!

The Baal Shem Tov taught us that we should seek the spiritual lesson in every encounter, and so I found myself wondering what the takeaway is here.

In terms of our spiritual growth, we cannot become complacent. We need to remain vibrant, alert, never satisfied with our current standing. While driving within the speed limit is honorable, when it comes to spirituality it’s vital that we accelerate, accomplishing mitzvah after mitzvah.

We cannot be content to cruise along in our relationship with G-d and the Torah. We must put the pedal to the metal!

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