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My Snow Tubing Experience

snow-tubing-6-pack-2.jpgFor their winter vacation, I took two of my boys to a resort with snow tubing, skiing, and an indoor water park.


The kids couldn’t get enough of the snow tubing. First the lift ride up the glorious mountain with amazing views both above and below, and then the main part: zooming down the mountain at top speed. It was simply thrilling.

As for me, I joined because they begged me to, but I can’t say I had the same experience. The lines were long, the cold was biting, the lift ride seemed tedious, and then there was the fear. As a parent, I see all the things that can go wrong. What if my kids fall off the lift? What if they crash on the way down? What if they don’t stop in time? You get the picture!

I looked at my kids and wondered, how are they not cold? Do the lines not bother them? Aren’t they bored on the lift ride?

But they kept going back again, and again, and again. No fear, no boredom, just pure fun. When my hands were completely frozen, and I declared an indoor lunch break, they insisted we come right back to the mountain after lunch. So there we were again… me sitting by the fire pit trying to stay warm, while my kids traipsed up and down, over and over and over again.  

My enjoyment is the fact that my kids are having fun, but not the actual experience. How is it that the same experience can be so different for us?

I realized, my kids live in the moment. They see everything around them as an experience. The views, the mountain, the snow, the fire pit—everything has the potential for fun. They’re fully engaged with the experience.

But me? Like most adults, my mind is in a hundred other places. What’s going on at work? At home? How are my other kids doing? What about all my other responsibilities? Not to mention the ever-present awareness of just how many ways the kids could hurt themselves out on this mountain…But for kids, there is none of that. In fact, I wish I could switch off entirely and commit myself to the experience like they do.

When it comes to our spiritual service, we can look to the children and learn to:

 a)       Live in the moment every moment. We are each tasked with a specific mission and G-d has given us the tools and a certain number of years with which to complete it. We can’t get side tracked. We need to maintain that awareness every minute of every day.

b)      Don’t be scared. Don’t shy away from taking risks and leaving your comfort zone. In fact, embrace the uncomfortable. Do something above and beyond what you usually do. When everyone around you doesn’t keep kosher, don’t be afraid to be different. Don’t be embarrassed to stand up and say, “I can’t eat that. I keep kosher,” or “I can’t do that, I keep Shabbat.”

Maybe next time I’ll be able to let go and enjoy that mountain a little more!


My Dear Liran

 My Dear Liran, 

A few weeks ago you made an appointment with my brother, Dr. Mordechai Vigler, a well known and respected hand surgeon in Israel. You said your name was Moshe and that you had been experiencing tremendous pain in your hand. What you didn’t say was that you were wearing a hidden camera and were gleefully anticipating exposing him as a religious Jew who suggested you put on tefillin. 

 But I think, Liran, that the hidden camera exposed something else entirely. 

The camera showed many things. It captured my brother’s certificates and degrees. It showed his kippa, tzitzit, seforim, and the picture of the Lubavitcher Rebbe he keeps in his office. Did you also notice the letters of gratitude thanking him for his philanthropic ventures? Did you notice that he is still an IDF soldier? Did you know that your video generated hundreds of messages of support from patients, testifying to his warmth, kindness, dedication, and expertise. 

But the video revealed something else, too, Liran. 

You came into my brother’s office deceitfully. You lied about your name, your symptoms, your pain. You presented yourself as Moshe the Liar; pompous and arrogant. But if you look closely, right at the end, we see something else. For a brief moment, you are exposed not as Moshe the Liar, but as Liran the Jew. 

When you put on tefillin and said Shema, Liran, for a short time you connected to the truth—to 4000 years of your ancestors—and to your soul. That spark of G-dliness buried deep within you, the connection you have to something larger than yourself...for a brief moment we saw it.   It’s not your hand that’s in pain, Liran, it’s your soul. Every time you lie, every time you deceive, your soul is hurt. 

Watch the video again, Liran. Watch it and repeat until you see the truth. Until you recognize yourself not as Moshe the Fraudster, but as Liran the Jew. 

And if you need some help, I invite you to Skype with me—or come meet me in NYC—and we can continue this conversation in person.   

I’d love to help you peel away the layers and get acquainted with your true self—Liran the Jew.  

Rabbi Uriel Vigler

The 10-Year Challenge

Screen Shot 2019-01-17 at 5.40.52 PM.pngI’m sure you’ve all seen the new internet meshugas by now—the 10-year challenge. It’s a bona fide viral sensation.

Millions of Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter users have participated, posting side by side pictures, from today and from 10 years ago, to show how they’ve aged. The challenge generated 5.2 million engagements on Facebook in just three days! Celebrities, of course, love the opportunity to show how little they’ve aged, but people from all cross-sections of society have joined the trend.

It’s kind of like a game, and the goal is to show how closely you resemble your 10-year-older self. The less you’ve changed, the more points you get.

But something seems jarring about this challenge. Is the goal really to stay the same? Shouldn’t we be changing, evolving, growing, over a 10-year period?

In spiritual terms, if you haven’t aged in 10 years, you’re behind—you’re downright losing the game!

So let’s do that challenge instead. Examine what you’ve done over the past decade. In this game, the more you’ve changed, the more you’ve increased your spiritual engagement and mitzvah output, the closer you are to winning.

Think deeply and ask yourself, what have I accomplished in the last 10 years? How many times did I come to shul? How many people have I helped? How many mitzvot have I done even when it was hard for me? How much time did I devote to those less fortunate? How many times did I stop myself from doing or saying something I knew I shouldn’t?

In fact, every night when we go to bed we’re supposed to take stock of what we’ve accomplished during the day and commit to doing more the following the day.

In Judaism, if we’re not progressing, we’re regressing. There is nothing to celebrate about staying the same from one day to the next, let alone for a 10-year stretch!

So, how much have you changed in the last 10 years?

$10,000 Leak?!

Twin-Cities-Leaky-Pipe.jpgOver the last few weeks I noticed a small leak in our Chabad center. I called a repair company who sent someone to examine the leak, and then sent me a proposal for $10,000.

Not having an extra $10,000 to fix a leak, I decided to try a local handyman instead. After an hour on the roof he comes down and tells me, “Done.”

I was incredulous. “What do you mean, ‘done’? Like, done? No more leak?”

“Yes,” he confirmed.

“Wow! How much do I owe you?”

“Well, the work cost me $40 and you can tip me whatever you want.”

Of course, I was willing to tip generously!

“Can I pay you now?” I asked.

“Let’s wait a few weeks until it rains again to make sure the leak is fixed,” he suggested.

I thought about it. The first guy quoted me $10,000 but the handyman was able to fix it for a mere $40. How could there be such a massive discrepancy?

There are two ways to fix a leak. The first guy wanted to remove the ceiling, get to the source of the leak, plaster it, install new tiles and new equipment, and the fix will probably be permanent.

The $40 fix was more like putting a Band-Aid on the hole, but the underlying problem still exists. In a few months, or—if I’m lucky—a few years, I’ll no doubt have to fix it again.

And so it is with the holes in our lives.

We all have them. Things we need to fix. Perhaps we need to improve our character—be kinder, more optimistic, develop empathy and compassion. Or maybe we struggle with anger, laziness, or temptation. No one is immune.

Our Chassidic masters explain that there are two ways to fix these issues. One is the $10,000 method. It requires effort, investment, toil, meditation, prayer, study, etc. It’s a long process, but if we stick with it, we will have a permanent fix.

The other way, the $40 method, is the quick and easy immediate fix. It’s that flash of inspiration you feel when you hear or read something that inspires you to change. It may fire us up in the moment, but that kind of inspiration rarely leads to lasting change. We quickly revert to our old habits because we haven’t put in the work.

When it comes down to it, we need both methods. We need the $40 fix to get us going, remind us that we can feel inspired and moved to change, but then we need to the $10,000 fix to really do the deep work and make those changes stick.

I may have fixed my leak for now, but I know down the line I’ll have to put in the real work and fix the underlying problem.

Perhaps you’re not ready to do the deep personal work just yet, either. That’s ok. Allow the short bursts of inspiration to keep you going until you’re ready to take that plunge. That’s what they’re for.

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