Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Chabad Israel Center of the Upper East Side. Subscribe to our mailing list below. We'll send you information that is fresh, relevant, and important to you and our local community.
Printed from ChabadIC.com

English Blog

Why did G-d make me lose my phone?

Blog.jpgI texted my friend Jack* last Friday, “Hi, can you make it to shul on Shabbat morning?”

An hour later, he still hadn’t replied so I asked again. Still another hour later, I began to worry. “Is everything okay?” I asked. “We’d love to see you tomorrow.”

Then I noticed that he hadn’t even read the conversation, so I figured he must be out of town. But lo and behold, Shabbat morning he was there bright and early.

“What happened?” I asked. “Why didn’t you answer me?”

“Oh, you won’t believe it!” he explained. “A few months ago I made a firm commitment to begin attending morning services. I’m not religious, but I’m making an effort.

“This Wednesday, I woke up late and saw that the time read 6:57am. Services begin at 7:00am and I wondered if there was any point in going so late. But I’d made a commitment and I was determined to follow through. I was doing it purely for G-d, and I knew He would be pleased with my decision.

“I quickly dressed and was downstairs by 7:04am. Instead of walking as I normally do, I grabbed a cab to save time. I arrived at 7:11am and joined the prayers. Several minutes later, I realized I didn’t have my phone. Turns out, I left it in the taxi. And I was not thrilled. I called it multiple times with no response, and since I paid cash for the taxi, there was no way to trace it. Like most people these days, my phone is my everything. My contacts, messages, info—it’s all in there! Losing it is scary and disorienting.

“Most of all, I don’t understand why this would happen now of all times. My whole life, I didn’t go to shul. Now that I started going regularly, and I went even this morning when I woke up late and it would have been a lot easier and more convenient to skip, this is what G-d does for me in return? This is how He pays me back? What’s going on?!”

In this week’s parshah, we read, “You shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the L-rd, your G-d, is testing you, to know whether you really love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.”

G-d tests us. Often. We know that. What we don’t always realize is that the test is for our own benefit, to push us to delve deeply into ourselves and find the strength to persevere for G-d.

We want to send our children to Jewish schools, but…the money. We want to keep kosher but there’s no kosher steakhouse in town. We want to go to the 6:00am minyan, but we need time to sleep and time to get ready for work. The challenges are 100% real. G-d wants us to serve Him, but then He makes it hard for us. It’s only natural to wonder why.

So I told Jack*, “We don’t know why G-d places obstacles in our path, but in this situation perhaps he wanted to test your resolve. Are you really committed to attending daily services? How firm is that commitment? Can it handle being tested? “And look, you passed with flying colors!”

Every morning we beseech G-d, “Please do not test me,” but He does and we know He will continue to do so. So let’s use those opportunities to reaffirm our commitment to Him, strengthen our resolve, and continue serving Him with utmost devotion.

*Name changed to protect privacy.

I Turned Down $3200!

Blog.jpgLast weekend my wife and I flew to Montreal for visiting day. It’s the first time our son has gone to overnight camp and we were determined to visit despite the immense amount of time and coordination it took to make arrangements for the rest of our children. We needed a night nurse and a day nurse for the triplets, as well as a close friend to sleep in the house and care for the next three children, getting them to day camp the next day.

Certainly we were nervous about leaving them all, but we did it. We flew to Montreal, spent the day at Camp Gan Israel with our big boy, met his counselors, and most importantly, showered him with undivided attention. We stayed overnight at an airport hotel, ready for our early-morning flight the following day.

When I checked the computer screen at the airport, there was a note about our flight. “The flight is overbooked. Would you consider giving up your seat and being compensated for it?” I didn’t even consider it. We needed to get home immediately to our other six children!

We arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare so I began my morning prayers. Then the announcements began. “We have overbooked this flight by 18 people. We are offering gift vouchers of $600 to anybody who wants to give up their seat. We will book you on the next available flight.”

We looked at each other, but as tempting as $1200 is, we knew the trouble we had gone to when arranging childcare for 24 hours. We couldn’t push it more than that, so we ignored the announcement.

Minutes later, they announced that they still needed 12 more people to give up their seats, and they increased the compensation to $1000 with the option to use it on Amazon. The offer just became immensely more attractive! We buy virtually everything on Amazon, so that money was now the equivalent of cash, not just airline vouchers.

“Will we do it for $2000?” we wondered. But just thinking of the logistics back home, we knew we had to decline. I returned to my prayers.

Not long later they announced that they were now offering $1300 for six more people to give up their seats. This really grabbed our attention—$2600 cash is no small matter!

When I was a student I used to jump on these offers even for $100, but things are quite different now!

The next announcement was the last chance. “We need two more people to give up their seats. We are offering $1600 per person.” At this, I was overcome. How could we turn down $3200? I ran to the counter and inquired when the next flight was, assuming it would be within the next hour or two. To my chagrin, all the flights for most of the day were full, and the earliest we would be booked was for a 5pm flight. They also offered meal vouchers to tide us over for the day. As tempting as it was, we turned it down. It would require making complex arrangements — from a distance — for another entire day and evening. We couldn’t do that.

As we boarded the plane, we discussed what number would have really pushed us to do it. I felt that at $1800 I could have justified either making the necessary arrangements, or just buying a ticket on a different airline. Perhaps even renting a car and driving to New York!

Our sages teach that there are three things guaranteed to change a person. If you’ve sampled them and not been affected, it simply means you haven’t yet discovered your limit.

1. Alcohol. Everyone has a limit. For me, it’s little more than a sniff and I’m ready to pass out. For others it’s a cup or even a bottle. But every person has a limit.

2. Money. Everyone has an amount that will change them. As I saw in the airport, for some it’s $600, for others it’s $1000 or $1300 or $1600, and for the many people who didn’t offer to switch their flights, it’s obviously more. For me it would have been $3600 ($1800 each).

3. Torah. If a person has studied Torah and not been positively affected, it simply means they haven’t studied enough.

Torah changes a person. If it hasn’t made you a better person yet, the only solution is to learn more, study harder, invest more deeply.

This weekend we mark Tisha B’Av, when we mourn the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of our current exile. Even exile has limits. We must convey to G-d that we can no longer tolerate it. We’ve reached our limit! We’re ready for the third Temple and the final redemption right now!

The Ultimate Cave Rescue

Blog1.jpgThe entire world had been collectively holding its breath awaiting the rescue of the 12 Thai boys and their coach, and after 18 long days every last one is out.

The miraculous rescue by a dedicated team of divers from multiple countries is unlike anything we have seen since the rescue of the Chilean miners in 2010. And perhaps this one struck an even greater chord because it was a group of children.

Just imagine being stuck in a winding cave, 3000 feet underground, 2.5 miles away from the entrance, in total darkness and flooding waters for 9 days without knowing if you will ever be found, or even if anyone is looking. And then, even after being found, the uncertainty about if and when and how you will get out… It’s almost unfathomable. 

But although we may not be physically stranded like they were, the Chassidic masters explain that we too are trapped in a cave. The only difference is, we don’t even know we are stuck!

Before we are born, we live in the real world, fully immersed in G-dliness and Divine spirituality. And then, G-d sends us to live in this cave. Earth. We may not see it that way, but that’s exactly what it is. New York, the city that never sleeps, a cave? Los Angeles, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Miami—all caves! Because we’ve been living in this darkness for so long, we no longer recognize it for what it is. We’re used to it. We know no differently.

The Thai boys grew up with sun and light and fresh air. So they knew they were stuck and they knew what to hope for, wait for, and expect on the outside.

We, on the other hand, know no differently. Generation after generation, we have been born into this dark labyrinth, and we are so far removed from the real world, we no longer wish for it. We think we already live in it. We can’t imagine pleasure beyond the luxuries we know. The ultimate vacation or car… these are nothing in comparison to spiritual bliss. 

And just as the entire world witnessed the rescue of the Thai boys, our rescue will also be tremendous. Just as theirs was urgent, to beat the imminent monsoon rains that could have trapped them for another four months, we require urgency too, before we are completely consumed by the world we live in. Their rescue was inordinately complex and dangerous, as is ours. What helped the boys stay alive and keep their spirits intact? Unity and cohesion. We too, can only survive by demonstrating unity. 

Moshiach is our navy seal diver. He will swim through the rushing murky waters to redeem us. In fact, the midrash explains that those buried outside of Israel will travel through underground tunnels to Israel and be resurrected there. 

The same way we felt sorry for the trapped boys, we should feel sorry for ourselves. It’s vital that we recognize and keep in mind at all times that while we may think we live in a vibrant, rich world, we are in fact stranded deep underground. And the elation that we—along with the whole world—felt when we watched the dramatic and unexpected rescue, that is the feeling we need to hold onto for when we are finally rescued with the ultimate redemption and the coming of Moshiach. 

Triplets: Out of Sync

Blog.jpgFor the last few months our lives have revolved around the number three. G-d blessed us with triplets, and we now think, breathe and complete each task in sets of three. Of course, when everything is in sync, it’s a lot easier.

When we go out we need three car seats, three sets of hands, three bottles, three (more like 30!) diapers, and three changes of clothing. When we put them to sleep, it’s three baths, three pairs of pajamas, three babies to rock and say shema with. When they wake up it’s three sets of hands to wash negel vasser, three clean outfits, and again three bottles. On Friday night there are three babies to bless, three sets of Shabbat clothes to dress them in…you get the picture! 

A couple of weeks ago we became concerned that the babies seemed to be fighting off a cold. The doctor sent us to the hospital and it turned out that they all had the same virus and needed to be hospitalized together. After two nights we were able to bring two of them home, but the third needed to stay. Suddenly, we weren’t thinking in threes anymore! Doing each action three times was manageable albeit hectic, but deviating from that pattern made things feel off balance and infinitely more challenging.

Thank G-d it was only for one night. Then the third baby was ready to come home too, and we soon fell back into our pattern of threes. But the incident left me wondering…is there a deeper significance to the number three?

Our sages certainly thought so. They described the ultimate set of “triplets”—the Torah, the Jews, and G-d. Our job is to perfectly synchronize the three, creating the ultimate state of unity the world needs in order to facilitate the final redemption. 

Three is a number of prominence in Judaism. There are the three forefathers and three daily prayers, the Torah was given in the third month and is divided into three parts, and the entire nation is divided into three groups—Kohen, Levi, Yisrael.

How do we unify the three pillars—us, G-d, and the Torah? G-d created the world for us and gave us the Torah as our guide. By delving into the Torah and fulfilling His commands, we develop a deep relationship with Him. Each good deed we do, each act of kindness we show another, helps cement and unify that three-pronged relationship that will ultimately usher us through to the next state, the era of Moshiach, and the eternal redemption.

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.