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The Best Food of My Life

Last Friday night, we held a beautiful, sold-out dinner for hundreds of people in honor of our heroic Belev Echad IDF soldiers.

We’ve done many of these dinners in the past, but this year we used a different caterer—one we’ve never used before.

After the event, Jessica approached me and gushed, “Rabbi, I must tell you something. I’ve been coming to your parties and events for over 12 years and I have never tasted such good food. It was out of this world! Just good, fresh, well cooked, high quality food. And the ribs! Rabbi, I’ve never had such good ribs in my life! And I would know, Rabbi. I own a restaurant, food is my life. I know good food when I taste it. And this, rabbi, this was GOOD!”

High praise indeed!

But not five minutes later, Yankel came my way and confided, “Rabbi, I must tell you something. The soldiers who spoke this evening were unbelievably inspiring. Their stories of courage, sacrifice, and absolute heroism are unlike anything I’ve heard before. And the choir, Rabbi! They sang so beautifully and created an electric ambiance. The only letdown was the food. I’ve been coming to your events for years, and this is by far the worst food you’ve ever served—possibly the worst I’ve tasted in my life. And you know I know food, Rabbi. Trust me, no one understands food like I do!”

Well, there you have it. Whenever you have more than one Jew, you’ll have the full gamut of opinions. And while differing opinions can be a springboard for discussion, they can also lead to massive division and disunity.

During the weeks between Pesach and Shavuot, a plague ravaged the disciples of the great sage Rabbi Akiva because they did not treat each other with respect. They allowed their disagreements to tear them apart, and as a result 24,000 died. We commemorate this tragedy with a seven-week period of mourning, during which various joyous activities are forbidden. On Lag BaOmer—a day we now celebrate—the deaths ceased, making Lag BaOmer a day where we emphasize love and respect for one another despite our differences.

We live in polarizing times, but let’s not allow division and disunity to control us. Despite our differences, we can come together with love and respect and accomplish so much more together.

Terror at Chabad of Poway: Our Reaction!

poway image.jpgWhen the family of 8-year-old Noya Dahan, and her uncle Almog Peretz, wanted to escape the daily barrage of missile attacks in Sderot, they searched the world for a safe haven, ultimately settling in Poway, California. Here, they thought, Noya and her younger sister Lian could have a normal childhood, free from the constant sirens, rockets, and midnight bomb shelter runs. Here they would be safe.

Alas, their brief respite was shattered this week when Chabad of Poway was attacked by a deranged gunman during services on the last day of Pesach. Lori Kaye, may G-d avenge her blood, was murdered trying to protect the rabbi. Rabbi Goldstein was shot in his hands, losing a finger. Almog Peretz jumped into action shepherding the children to safety despite being shot in the leg himself, and his niece Noya was injured by flying shrapnel. And these are just the physical wounds. The psychological impact—for the injured and everyone else present—cannot be quantified.

This new wave of hatred is both predictable and unpredictable. We know, unfortunately, it’s going to surface with relative frequency—that has become all too predictable. What we don’t know, is when and where the next attack will be. Whether it’s San Bernardino, Orlando, Brussels, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Paris, or Poway, there is a single common denominator: blind hatred.

In the past, we knew our enemies. We knew how many tanks they had, how many troops we were up against, their strengths and their weaknesses. But today we have no idea. We are fighting a war, but not the kind we are familiar with. The new war is the lone gunman, often recruited through the dark web, who is filled with unbridled anger and hatred.

To defeat this kind of evil, we have to play using their rules. They’re crazy? Unpredictable? Wild? Out of control? Then that’s what we need to be, too.

If in the past you were content to have two children, go beyond your comfort zone and have one more. Don’t know how you will afford it? Who cares! The evil forces don’t care, so we cannot either.

Were you content to give 10 percent of your earnings to charity until now? Start giving 20 percent! It’s a lot of money? It doesn’t matter! It’s time to be crazy in a holy way.

Has keeping kosher seemed too difficult whenever you’ve considered it? Stop thinking and just do it! Yes, there’s peer pressure and increased expenses, but now’s the time to extend yourself. You can do it!

Don’t keep Shabbat yet? It’s difficult, definitely, but this is not the time for calculations. It’s a time for action. Go out there and keep Shabbat. Take the leap. Just do it.

The terror is so unpredictable; we need to be just as unpredictable in our holiness. It’s our best chance for countering the forces of evil that so strongly grip our society.

Let’s hope and pray for the recovery of the sick and wounded, and for the abolition of evil in its entirety. May G-d avenge Lori’s blood, and bring peace and healing to the entire congregation.

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