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About Me

Rabbi Chaim Coffman
Rabbi Coffman has helped people from all across the spectrum to prepare themselves properly for Orthodox Conversion to Judaism. His students admire his vast knowledge and appreciate his warm, personal attention and endearing sense of humor.
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Welcome to Rabbi Chaim Coffman's Blog!

I would like to thank you for visiting my blog, Beyond Orthodox Conversion to Judaism.

The conversion process can be a lengthy and daunting one to say the least and I want you to know that I am here to help you through it.

I have been teaching newcomers to Judaism for over a decade and over the last few years I have seen that conversion candidates really lack the support and knowledge they need to navigate the conversion process and successfully integrate into the Orthodox Jewish community.

I created my mentorship program in order to help make this whole experience as smooth and as painless as possible! (Can't do much about the growing pains, though ;)

Feel free to get to know me a little through the posts on my blog and visit the mentorship and syllabus page if you are interested in possible joining us.

I sincerely wish you all the best in your search for truth and spiritual growth.

Looking forward to meeting you,
Chaim Coffman

My Rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch

In case you were wondering why I have all of these articles written by Rav Moshe Sternbuch, he is my Rebbe, and one of the gedolei hador (greatest Rabbis of our generation).

Rav Sternbuch fully endorses me and supports my mentorship program.

He is the address for all of my halachic or hashkafic (practical and philosophical) questions that I or my students may have.

The articles are based on his weekly talks on the Torah portion that the Rav gives in Jerusalem in his kollel. As a member of the kollel I get first dibbs on the photocopies and I type them up for my blog so you can all benefit from the Rav's erudition and insight.
Thursday, December 31, 2015

Parshas Shemos: Why did G-d Send us to Egypt anyway?

"The daughter of Pharaoh said, 'Go. The girl went and summoned teh boy's mother. Pharaoh's daughter said to her, 'Take this boy and nurse him for me and I will give your pay. So the woman took the boy and nursed him. The boy grew up and she brought him to the daughter of Pharaoh and he was a son to her. She called his name Moshe as she said, 'For I drew him from the water" (Shemos 2:5-10)

Moshe would not nurse from a non-Jewish woman and Moshe was then nursed by his mother. He then is taken by Pharaoh's daughter and she essentially raises him in the her father's palace. So right under Pharaoh's nose is the one that will save the Jewish people from his clutches. Why did G-d set it up this way?

The Jewish people were sent to Egypt so that they could learn what it means to serve a king so that they would then be better able to learn how to serve the king of kings! Moshe was brought up in the palace to learn exactly what a king is in this world so he could understand kingship! There are no coincidences in Torah!

This just goes to show if G-d wants to do something, He can do it right under your nose without you even knowing it! A person could be doing something and have the answer right in front of him but G-d doesn't allow him to see it or fathom it. G-d's ways are hidden but sometimes we get a glimpse of why He does things.

In this case the Jewish people are sent to Egypt and are almost obliterated spiritually where G-d has to come and take them out against their will! Not only that but 80% of the Jewish people do not leave Egypt so that means that according to some opinions more than 8 million Jews died in Egypt. If that is true then why did G-d bring them down there in the first place?

The reason was so that the Jewish people could understand kingship in this world. Couldn't G-d have done it another way where the Jews wouldn't have been destroyed spiritually and 80% wouldn't have been wiped out in the plague of darkness. This is one of the mysteries we may never know but G-d felt that was the best scenario.

Here you had Moshe living in the palace of the kings and seeing kingship first hand. The Jewish  people also saw what a king was and when they saw G-d at Mount Sinai they now understood what   kingship was. How would they have understood it had they not been there?

G-d runs the world and intervenes in history. We learn this through the exodus from Egypt. Although His ways are hidden, we sometimes get a glimpse as to why things are done the way they are. Even if we don't, we realize that these things are beyond us and we should let G-d run the world the way He needs to do and we will do what we need to do to serve Him!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of Our Fathers: Chapter 6: Mishna 1: Rejoice in the Opportunities G-d Gives Us!

"Rabbi Meir said: 'Whoever engages in Torah study for its own sake merits many things, furthermore the creation of the entire world is worthwhile for his sake alone. He is called, 'Friend, Beloved' He loves the Omnipresent, he loves (His) creatures, he gladdens the Omnipresent, (The Torah) clothes him in humility and (fear of G-d) it makes him fit to be righteous, devout, fair and faithful. It moves him away from sin and draws him near to merit. From him, people enjoy counsel and wisdom, understanding and strength, as it is aid: 'Mine are counsel and wisdom, I am understanding, mine is strength'. (The Torah) gives him kingship and he becomes like a steadily strengthening fountain and like an unceasing river. He becomes modest, patient, and forgiving of insult to himself. (The Torah) makes him great and exalts him above all things'".

The power of Torah is incredible! Imagine if a person continually learns and the Torah actually transforms him whereby people stop to take notice of such a great person. This is what the Mishna means when it gives all these blessings for someone who engages in Torah study for its own sake. The reason is because they are doing this for no other reason than for the ability to be able to learn Torah and keep its mitzvos!

They learn and keep the mitzvos to the best of their ability because this is what the Torah demands from them. There are no ulterior motives here; striving for perfection because they want to be the best people they can and be close to G-d. Isn't that what G-d wants from all of us? Doesn't he want us to strive and work on ourselves so that we can reach that true potential that we all have?

If we would live up to the ideals of the Torah won't G-d be happy with us and the whole world as well? Our actions will have such influence that people will say "thank G-d his father taught him Torah". This will be a real sanctification of G-d's name which will have tremendous influence on others around us.

People will come to them for advice while at the same time they will be modest and humble and realize the great bounty that G-d has given them. This will allow them to use their strengths to continue to learn more which will again have a tremendous influence on others. Is there no greater joy than this?

This all comes to true when we realize that this is the most important thing that we must do. We must use all our strength in this endeavor by dedicating ourselves to this goal. When we realize that all we do is because of its own sake and has nothing to do with my ego or anything else, we become one with G-d. We realize our subservience to the Torah and its teachings but at the same time, it allows us to develop patience and be modest.

We should be thankful every day that we are able to learn Torah and learn its treasured lessons. We should be so fortunate to be able to understand the intricacies of its laws and implement them into our daily lives. Even if life is hard and we have trials and tribulations, that means I should serve G-d with a sour face or be upset when doing His will?

Life in general is hard and taxing upon us. Nonetheless G-d gives us the power to tap into Him and overcome them! It makes us into who we are! We should be jumping up and down at the ability to be part of such a thing.

Many look at the Torah and its laws as drudgery and things that I cannot do. Torah is just the opposite. We have the opportunity to open our hearts to Him. That alone should give us an extra oomph in our step and make us proud to do His will!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Parshas Vayechi: G-d Runs the World!

"His brothers themselves also went and flung themselves before him and said, 'We are ready to be your slaves.' But Yosef said to them, 'Fear not, for am I instead of G-d? Although you intended me harm, G-d intended it for good in order to accomplish it is as clear as this day that a vast people be kept alive" (Genesis 50:18-20). 

After everything that Yosef has been through, he realizes where everything comes from and that even if we don't understand why we go through certain things, G-d knows what he is doing! He reassures the brothers and tells them not to worry because G-d makes everything happen even though we are not privy to the why's about it!

We go through life making decisions while everything is being orchestrated above. We have free will and are not robots but our actions are guided from above and we just put things into motion. We certainly can make mistakes and there will be repercussions for our actions.

One of the essential tenets of Judaism is Hashgacha Pratis (Divine Providence) whereby G-d runs the world and interferes in history. Since we have no Temple today, G-d's ways are truly hidden and it is very difficult if not impossible to try and fathom why He does what He does. We often also don't understand how things we do turn out the way it does but if G-d is truly good, then everything has a purpose which one day we will merit to truly understand.

The way we know that G-d interferes in history and has a role guiding it is because the mitzvah to believe in G-d is from the first of the 10 commandments. "I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out o of the land of Egypt" shows just that role. The commentators ask why we don't learn it out from the fact that G-d created the world. After all, that would seem to be a greater proof.

The reason is that no one was there to witness it. When the Jews came out of Egypt there were 600,000 men not including women and children who witnessed the miracles of the plagues. That means with women and children there were over 3,000,000 people altogether who could give testimony as to G-d's role in what happened. Pretty amazing!

Not only that but this has been passed down through all future generations based on the mitzvos we keep because of coming out of Egypt. All the laws of Passover come from the deliverance from Egypt, the whole evening service we pray, the last paragraph of the many things attached to one event in history!

Even though it seems that enslavement to the Egyptians was a bad thing (considering according to some opinions 80% of the Jewish did not come out of Egypt) nonetheless we received the Torah as a result! Nothing short of incredible. This is just a mere example of looking into things where we see G-d's role but in many ways it is unfathomable to us unless we are able to see the whole picture!

This is a lesson for our everyday life being able to see where we have been and what has led us to where we are now. We don't always have the answers to the important why question but there is that guiding hand always!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 26: No Pain no Gain!

"Ben He-He said: According to the effort is the reward"

Isn't true that anything that comes easy probably isn't worth it? Here the Mishna tells us that we will reap the benefits of our actions by putting maximum effort into something. It can't be with that type of effort we will come out on the short end of the stick.

If that is true regarding physical things then it must be true for spiritual things as well. After all, if our goal in this world is to be close to G-d, the more obstacles thrown our way to keep his commandments should be commensurate with the reward that we will receive. After all, if we keep mitzvos that are hard to do, won't the reward be that much greater?

The reality is that with everything that we do, we want to put our best foot forward and succeed. We may not always reach our goals but that doesn't mean that we should give up. If we keep plugging away and are vigilant to keep the Torah and its mitzvos at the highest level, then the satisfaction we will receive seems endless!

Imagine in times where it was hard to secure an esrog for Sukkos and at the last second with great herculean effort you acquire that precious esrog! Will he just be happy to fulfill the mitzvah or will he be jumping out of his skin in exhilaration for what has transpired. In spiritual terms we can see this in other ways as well.

If a person has a problem with cursing for example and make a concerted effort to combat this, can we imagine what joy they will have when they feel like cursing and they don't? They may have worked for days and months on this and then the opportunity occurs to put it into practice.

They are busy building their sukkah and all of a sudden a strong hammer blow comes to ones finger and although they are hurt and in pain, guess what, not one curse word comes out! The effort has paid off to the extent that they have actualized what they learned. Obviously easier said than do but this is what the Mishna is speaking about.

Putting great effort into our actions and then reaping the benefits of our actions is what we are speaking of here. This doesn't mean that we don't have setbacks and trials and tribulations but rather we will revel in the fact that we have beaten our adversary the yetzer hara at this time and we will witness that our hard work paid off!

We have a tremendous amount of joy and satisfaction knowing that we have tried hard and persevered. When we do this it gives us strength to continue other actions in this way as well which will give us tremendous enjoyment of what we are able to accomplish!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Parshas Vayigash: The path to Jewish Continuity

"And he sent Yehuda before him to Yosef to show the way before him to Goshen; and they came into the land of Goshen" (Genesis 46:28)

Why is Yehuda sent to Goshen? The commentaries explain that the reason is so that he would be able to set up an educational infrastructure which would be ready when the rest of the people would come down there. This is important because before a Jew moves into a community they have to see what the presence is of the Jews that live there.

 Are there synagogues, mikvas, schools for their children? When this is not done, then it takes quite a bit of time to set up. We see this by what happened to the Jews that came to the United States at the beginning of the twentieth century. There was no infrastructure set up and it took many years for all that to be established. The results were catastrophic as it led many to shed their Judaism while at the same time giving their children a second rate Jewish education (if you can even call it that) which resulted in rampant assimilation and intermarriage.

Although they were fleeing from religious persecution when they were in Europe and people were running away from Judaism even there, nonetheless when they got to the US which had nothing set up for the the thousands coming, the end result was an utter disaster!

This is the reason that Yaakov sent Yehudah to Goshen and a lesson for all future generations. There is nothing more important than belonging to a Jewish community that is flourishing with a proper system that will result in successfully passing down that great heritage to the future generations! This is the reason as well that a convert to Judaism has to live in a viable Jewish community that has synagogues and schools for their children. The reason is that a Jew cannot live on their own island without any other Jews around them.

Many in the process of conversion, once they find out that they will have to move to a Jewish community feel that it is not fair. After everything they have given up, now they have to move as well? Certainly not an easy situation but how else will a person know how to keep Torah and mitzvos if they are not part of a place that has a thriving Jewish community?

The Rambam in the laws of Repentance goes even further and says that a Jew who separates himself from the community will have it very difficult if they want to do teshuvah (repent). That means even if they live in a Jewish community but has nothing to do with it, that is also bad. This again shows the importance of being part of the Jewish people by living where they are We can't do things on our own and need a community so that we can be the best Jews!

The single biggest threat to assimilation today is lack of education. This is why this is so crucial  While the Jewish people have been subjected to anti-semitism, pogroms...they are wiping themselves spiritually off the map because of rampant assimilation and intermarriage.

May we all merit to learn Torah, be Torah educated which is the essence of Jewish continuity.

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 25: The Torah is not Obsolete!

"Ben Bag Bag said: "Study Torah again and again, for everything is contained in it; constantly examine it, grow old and gray over it, and swerve not from it, for there is nothing more excellent than it"

The Mishna seems obvious here. Don't we already know how much effort it takes to learn Torah? Isn't the only way to grasp it properly is to constantly review, do some more review and then review again some more? What is the novelty here that the Mishna is trying to teach us?

The Chida explains that as we saw from the previous Mishna, a person will be learning Torah from a very young age, learning Chumash, then Mishna, then Gemara... That being the case, they will think that when they get older they will have already "learned" Torah so they can study other things like philosophy, the arts...This is definitely not the case!

The Torah is limitless in its understanding and depth and it is foolish to think that after studying it for years that we have mastered it! Even the greatest scholars find new things in the Torah that they learn, continually striving and making innovations in their learning! Obviously this is easier said than done!

If you have someone who has learned a particular tractate of Talmud many many times, the novelty is that when they learn it again, they look at it as if they have never seen it and work their way through. This is truly amazing when we think about it because the reality is that you have built up ideas over the years and have thought and rethought them and now you look at everything as a clean slate starting from scratch? This is amazing but that is the power of Torah!

One example is after Simchas Torah we start the Chumash from the beginning of Genesis. Don't we know about creation and the story of the flood...about Avraham, the binding of Isaac...Yes we do but there are so many levels a person can learn at that the Torah always looks fresh and we always have something to gain. We also based on our learning, understanding and life experience look at these parshiot differently year to year!

Torah is something that is difficult to grasp and takes a great deal of time understanding it's precepts. This is why regardless of how much you have learned when you were younger, you will learn it at a totally different depth when you are older!

The Mishna also tells us that there is nothing greater than the learning Torah. Some may say that there is also other wisdom out there so how can we be prejudiced and only learn Torah? The answer is that Torah is the only thing that stands the test of time when it comes to its teachings and morality. There is nothing else out there in the world that addresses all issues that a person will possibly go through in their lifetime.

It is as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago; we just have to know how to tap into it and make it a part of our lives! The reality is that since we live in such a high tech ever changing world, we need G-d today more than ever! We see a world that has taken G-d out of the picture and has tried to make athiests out of all of us.

This is what the Greeks have left for us, trying to show that what we can't understand must mean that it isn't true. They also gave us a world that is saturated with the worship of the body and going after our own desires. As Torah continues to stand the test of time, we have utilize it to the best of our ability and continue implementing its timely messages!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Parshas Miketz: G-d is Orchestrating our Lives!

"And Yosef saw his brethren and he knew them but made himself strange to them and spoke roughly to them to buy food; and he said tho them, 'Where do you come from? And they said From the land of Canaan to buy food" (Genesis 42:7)

When the brothers come to Egypt to get food, Yosef instantly recognizes them although the brothers don't recognize him. He then speaks to them in a gruff manner accusing them of being spies. If Yosef is so righteous, why does he go to great lengths to accuse of them of being spies and causing more anguish to his father Yaakov?

The dreams that Yosef had are a form of prophesy and if a prophet has prophecy he has to give it over even if it puts their life in danger. They also have to get the message right or they forfeit their life! Not so easy to be a prophet!

These prophecies have to be actualized and Yosef has to put the brothers on a course of action to make that happen and this is part of the reason they have to go through this. The main reason though is because Yosef wants to make sure that they have uprooted their bad character traits and have fully repented for their actions.

We see this when they have received their money back while they are at the inn on the way back to the land of Israel. They realize that all the actions that have occurred are a result of how they treated Yosef. Up until this point, though, how could they have not realized what they had done was wrong? After all, they acted within the laws of the Torah and showed mercy to Yosef by not killing him, they merely sold him!

The answer is that although according to the Torah they were justified in what they did, they still acted in a cruel way. For them to truly repent, Yosef had to make sure and put them through this trial even though it caused more anguish to his father. The whole ploy was also a way to get his father down to Egypt so that the future Jewish people would be redeemed!

What an amazing thing! On the one hand, Yosef is working on the character traits of his brothers while at the same time looking towards the future of the Jewish people. As we can see and have seen throughout the book of Genesis there are multiple layers of things going on that we cannot even begin to fathom.

We will see in next week's parsha that Yosef will say that he has no hard feelings towards his brothers because everything was orchestrated by G-d Himself! This is the lesson we have to take for ourselves. Whatever happens in our lives is really orchestrated by G-d and we are put in certain situations to see how we will react and rise to the occasion to reach our true potential! If we would live our lives with this in mind, we would look different and become great spiritual people!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 24: Preparing our Life in this world!

"He used to say: A five year old begins Scripture; a ten year old begins Mishna; a thirteen year old becomes obliged to observe the commandments; a fifteen year old begins the study of Gemara; an eighteen year old goes to the marriage canopy; a twenty year old begins pursuit of a livelihood; a thirty year old attains full strength; a forty year old attains understanding; a fifty year old can offer counsel; a sixty ear old attains seniority; a seventy year old attains a ripe old age; an eighty year old shows strength; a ninety year old becomes stooped over; a hundred year old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world". 

A parent has an obligation to educate his children even from a very young age. When they first begin to speak they teach him the verse "Torah tziva lanu Moshe" (and the Torah commanded us to do...through Moshe). Even if the child doesn't understand what that means we are teaching him the importance about Torah and mitzvah observance because G-d commanded Moshe and gave us the Torah. This is important because we want to start our children when they first learn to speak to say words of Torah and show them how precious it is.

At the age of ten a child should be learning Mishna. In fact today, kids start learning Mishna earlier than that. They start off with Chumash (the Bible) and then go on to learn the Mishna which is a commentary on the Bible. This gives them the foundation to learn further i.e. Gemara which is a commentary on the Mishna and the subsequent commentaries as well. That continues through bar mitzvah where the child will develop his learning skills further as he gets older.

Fifteen is the latest one should start learning Gemara. There is a school of thought to go through all the Chumash and Mishna and constantly review until this age so that they have mastered it and then start the learning of Gemara. Since they have that other knowledge under their belt, it will make learning Gemara easier. Many do not hold this way as the teaching of Gemara begins even before bar mitzvah!

The Mishna then tells us at 18 a person should be married. In some circles that is practiced even by men but most wait until they 21, 22 before they start the dating process since they are more mature (or at least should be) by that age. Women get married younger, usually starting to date at about 19 but some even younger than that. They are mature already at that age and have been prepared for this their whole lives.

Some may feel that they have to already have a career and other life experience but it seems clear that the longer a person waits, the more difficult it is to get married.  A person is more set in their ways as they get older which makes the dating process more difficult. Being older in this case is not better but the reality is that the longer time goes by the more demands they may have on what they are looking for!

At the age of 20, a person should focus on Torah and running after it to be the best he can be. If he is indeed married at 18, then he would have to focus on what to do for a livelihood which will help support his family and learn Torah as well. The best livelihood a person can find would be one where they could utilize their time for studying Torah. This means that we should look for a livelihood that doesn't have as many hours so that the rest of the time can be put to Torah learning. Obviously easier said than done!

At the age of thirty a person has strength which doesn't diminish. We learn this out from the Levites who started serving in the Temple at the age of thirty. They needed strength to be able to do the many things that were required in the Temple and this is why the Mishna mentions the idea of strength here.

A person reaches true understanding at the age of 40. He has spent many years toiling in Torah and now has a broad enough knowledge that he has understanding of what it is all about. It comes with maturity and a desire for truth which leads him this way.

At the age of 50 a person has the ability to give advice to others. The reason is that they have learned for many years and now they have the knowledge and life experience to counsel others. Obviously it can only be that individual steeped in Torah that is able to do this

A sixty year old reaches seniority which means they understand that their time in this world is limited and soon they will no longer be here. It is at this time that people have to really take stock in their lives and how they are living as they will soon have to answer to the King of Kings for what they have done in this world!

When a person is in their 70's and 80's, they realize that they are closer to grave! King David says in Psalms that a person's life is only 70 years in this world and if he has strength he will be last 80 years. We see this clearly as the body starts to decay. The focus of a person's life at this stage should be to strengthen themselves in learning and sincerely repent for any wrongdoing they may have done!

A person that reaches 90 must realize that although they are alive, it is as if they have one foot in the grave. They have to make the most of the lives at this stage that G-d has given them and pursue Torah knowledge because tomorrow they may not be here.

When a person hits the age of 100 it is as if he is not in the world anymore. He has certainly been granted long life by G-d but at this stage we don't value him as being in this world. Most people do not live this long so by the time a person reaches this stage, it is as if they are no longer here.

We see from this Mishna the importance of different stages of our lives and how we should look at them! This world is about preparation for the next world and the stages in which to get there!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Parshas Vayeshev: We are not hear for Popularity!

"And Yosef dreamed a dream and he told it to his brethren and they hated him yet the more" (Genesis 37:5).

If Yosef already had issues with his brothers, why did he tell them the dreams if he knew that it could potentially put his life in danger? After all, why not forego this and not tell them since it is going to increase their hatred?

These dreams that Yosef had were a form of prophecy and when someone has a prophecy they have an obligation to tell it over even if that will put their life in danger. Not only that, but a prophet having this vision has to give over the correct meaning of it and if he doesn't he is liable for the death penalty. It is tough to be a prophet!

This is the issue that Yona had when he didn't want to give over the prophecy to the people of Nineveh. Even though he tried to hide so to speak G-d came to him again emphasizing that he had to go and tell the people of Nineveh what He told him. From here we see an interesting idea,

On the one hand we see the importance of giving over the right message even if that meant possibly putting your own life in danger. We also learn that sometimes even if we feel uncomfortable we have to protest some things to show G-d that we don't approve. We have to know when and where to do this but why is it important?

Sometimes we will see something that goes against what G-d wants from us and we can't just sit around and watch a desecration of G-d's name. This means even if we don't think that what we are doing has any consequences, nonetheless we don't want to be held accountable in the next world!

Why would we be held accountable? The reason is that we didn't think it was that problematic and it is as if we see that there is nothing wrong with it! Is this really true? Does G-d want us to seemingly complain when people aren't going to listen?

First of all, we don't know that people won't listen. It will depend how we do it but at the same time, we have to show that this is not an ownerless world where what we do doesn't matter and that G-d forbid He is not around or doesn't care! By taking a stand, we are showing that there is judgment and there is a true Judge! If not, we could be held responsible and it will look like we agree with this!

Although this may be far from our reality, we have to ask ourselves, when we see Jews who don't keep shabbos drive by us on Shabbos, does it bother us or do we just chalk it up to their ignorance about the important of this holy day? If it doesn't bother us at all then we have some real spiritual issues that need to be worked on! We have to look inward to try and understand what we may be lacking in.

We also have to realize that even if no one is going to listen we still have a obligation (depending on the circumstances) to show that we disapprove of what is happening around us. As one person told me when that they went to a siblings intermarriage under protest. Under protest? How was the protest shown if they were actually there? The greatest protest that could have been made would to not have gone! By going under "protest" you are actually showing that you approve and that could not be further from the truth!

We sometimes have to make unpopular decisions but better to look stupid in the eyes of man than uncaring about Torah in the eyes of G-d!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 23: Serving G-d Properly and not Blaming others for our Actions

"Yehudah ben Tema said: 'Be bold as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a deer, and strong as a lion, to do the will of your Father who is in heaven. He used to say: The impudent is destined for gehinnom but the shamefaced is destined for paradise'". 

All these character traits are important so that one will be able to do the will of their Creator. One who for example is swift as a deer runs to do mitzvos and is constantly aware of his obligations in this world. He wants to do the right thing and will do whatever it takes to do so.

This is an important character trait to have because they are acting on their desire to serve G-d properly. Although we may have this desire, we sometimes get distracted and don't do what we need to The yetzer hara (evil inclination) works hard at keeping us busy with other things so that we focus less on Torah and mitzos!!

This is why we also have to be as strong as a lion. We need to put all our effort in keeping the Torah and doing G-d's will and work hard to stay at that level! It also means that we have to keep our bodies strong and in good shape so we can accomplish these goals. If a person is not healthy or doesn't keep a healthy lifestyle then that will hinder a person in reaching their potential because they will be incapable of doing so.

Even if in our mind we know what the right thing is, we have to put that into our hearts so we can actualize it. It cannot be emphasized enough that we need to have this desire on a daily basis so we can serve Him to the best of our ability. Through perseverance and hard work we will reach this goal!

The next part of the Mishna speaks about people that are brazen who end up in gehinnom. The commentaries tell us a person is brazen because they come from a forbidden union. Either the child was conceived through an adulterous union or where the parents did not keep the marital purity laws. Even a person who comes from such unions, is there no way to break out of this or does this follow them their whole lives?

Although Freud is not so in vogue today Judaism believes that even if one has a certain disposition whether they are born with it or for other reasons, they don't have to act on it. In other words, if a person's father was a killer and his father was a killer does not mean the grandson has to be one! Even if there is a hereditary, it is just something else a person has to work on,

They may have that disposition but we are obligated to work on bad character traits even if we may have inherited them. This means that no matter what we do we have to take responsibility for our actions regards as to what the cause of them may be. This is a tremendous lesson for us to remember!

We can't blame others for our socioeconomic circumstances; we have to take responsibility for our actions. This means that even if we have certain bad character traits that may have been inherited from our parents, we have to work hard to rectify them and not go in that direction. Although that may be difficult, this is the path that G-d has given us to reach the potential we all have!


Thursday, November 26, 2015

Parshas Vayishlach: Don't budge one inch!!

"And Yaakov sent messengers before him to Esav his brother to the land of Se'ir, the country of Edom. And he commanded them saying, This you shall speak to my lord Esav: Your servant Yaakov says I have sojourned with Lavan, and stayed there until now: and I have oxen, and asses, flocks, and menservants and women servants and I have sent to tell my lord that I may find favor in your sight" (Genesis 32:4-6). 

Yaakov tells Esav about the wealth that he has accumulated to find favor in his eyes. We know that the fight for the birthright between the two brothers was about this world and the next world. Yaakov wanted to show although he was given blessing in this world Esav shouldn't worry that he had forsaken spirituality. In reality we are allowed to use this world for our benefit but we have to realize that the main thing we have to focus on is spirituality!

For the sake of livelihood or other things in the secular world we may have to do things we don't like or may even have to compromise. Spirituality is not like that! This is what Yaakov means when he tells Esav that he lived with Lavan. Rashi there says that he lived with Lavan but he kept all the commandments. Do we really think Esav cared that Yaakov remained religious despite living with the evil Lavan?

Yaakov made Esav understand that even though he lived by Lavan, his closeness to G-d and his level of religiosity did not change. Although Esav was far from this ideal, he grew up in the house of Yitzchak so he understood what spirituality was. Yaakov makes clear that Esav too will not have a bad influence on him just as Lavan did not!

This is important for us today on many levels. We may be out in the workforce and come in contact with many types of Lavan that want to weaken our spiritual resolve. We have to know that regardless of where we are and what we are doing we still have to do what G-d wants us to do at all times. This is not easy when we are given different trials and tribulations.

At the same time, our spiritual resolve has to remain strong and unyielding. Once there is a chink in our spiritual armor, the evil inclination clenches its claws on us to make us weaker. We have to constantly strengthen ourselves in that area so that it cannot have its negative affect on us!

As we get closer to Chanukah we realize that this is exactly what the Greeks wanted to do to us. They didn't care if we wanted to be religious but they desired that we should partake in their gymnasium's and learn in their schools and be like them. We have seen the "Greeks" of today that advocate the same thing which has given the Jewish people a 60% intermarriage rate and rampant assimilation. May we take Yaakov's strength in being unyielding and strong in our religious pursuits and bring out the light of Torah!

Shabbat Shalom!

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 22: Who do you want to be like, Balaam or Avraham?

"Whoever has the following three traits is among the disciples of our forefather Avraham and whoever has three different traits is among the disciples of the wicked Balaam. Those who have a good eye, a humble spirit, and a meek soul are among the disciples of our forefather Avraham. Those who have an evil eye, an arrogant spirit, and a greedy soul are among the disciples of the wicked Balaam. How are the disciples of the wicked Balaam? The disciples of our forefather Avraham enjoy the (fruits of their good deeds in this world and inherit the world to come as it is aid: 'To cause those who love Me to inherit an everlasting possession (the world to come) and I will fill their storehouses (in this world). But the disciples of the wicked Balaam inherit Gehinnom and descend into the well of destruction, as is said 'And you O G-d shall lower them into the well of destruction men of bloodsheed and deceit shall not live out half their days; but as for me, I will trust in You'".

 Avraham's great character traits shows that he wanted to help others, was humble and didn't think he was anything special, just wanting to serve G-d the best way possible. We see that he desired to have guests to the extent that he was looking for them just three days after he was circumcised. He was no doubt exempt from this but the importance of this mitzvah is so great that we learn out that having guests is more important that even speaking to G-d directly!

His way of treating guests was unparalleled. We can understand this because when he had guests he served them what they wanted to eat not what he wanted to serve them. This shows how much desire he had to serve others and how much he wanted them to enjoy his hospitality.

He was also humble in spirit which means that he did not consider himself so special, just a person who dedicated himself to G-d in a world filled with idolatry. G-d gave him many difficult trials which he was able to overcome solidifying his legacy with the binding of Yitzchak! They made him stronger and gives us the ability to withstand trials and tribulations because of what he did

He is also meek soul which Rabbenu Yonah explains that he had no desire to do evil and was of such a pure soul that he continually strove to grow in spirituality regardless of what he was going through. He understood that G-d demanded a lot from him and was willing to do whatever was asked of him. Considering all the difficulties that he went through, he never questioned G-d's ways and successfully reached his potential!

Balaam on the other hand was just the opposite. He was greedy and arrogant and even though he communicated with G-d, it didn't change him for the better! This is incredulous to understand because we can't imagine that someone at that level who G-d communicated with could act in such a way.

He continued to do evil and didn't care about anything except himself. It turned him into a selfish person whose sole purpose was to look out for himself and give in to desires as he saw fit! Isn't that what most people do anyway, you may ask?

That may be true but he had tremendous influence over others. This is truly scary because he was able to corrupt others to go against G-d and live a wayward life. Someone who is subservient to their desires and does not work on them is never truly free because they are constantly busy just fulfilling the next desire...The truly free person though is someone who learns Torah and goes in its ways,

The Misnah compares both Avraham and Balaam showing how they represent to opposite ways of how to live one's life. A person can decide to go in the direction of Avraham, constantly rising up the spiritual ladder, willing to do anything to have closeness to G-d. Balaam, on the other hand, went after his how desires which destroyed his soul and those around him. The choice is ours to make: do we want to be like Balaam or Avraham?

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Parshas Vayeitze: Yaakov's struggle with Lavan and Realizing that we can only rely on G-d!

"Then Jacob became angered and he took up his grievance with Lavan; Jacob spoke up and said to Lavan, "What is my transgression? What is my sin that you have hotly pursued me? When you rummaged through all my things what did you find of all your household objects? Set it here before my kinsmen and your kinsmen and let them decide between the two of us" (Genesis 31:36-37).

Imagine after everything that Yaakov has done for Lavan that Lavan has the audacity to accuse him of stealing something from him. After all, everything that Lavan had was blessed because of what Yaakov had done for him. What is the deeper meaning here? 

Lavan was a swindler par excellence and knew how to manipulate people very well. Even though Yaakov tried his best to get Rachel, he was outfoxed by him. At the same time, Lavan seemed to know no bounds on what he was willing to do to get what he wanted. This is why when Yaakov confronts Esav he tells him that he lived with Lavan and guarded the 613 commandments. Do we think that Esav really cared that he still stayed righteous living with the evil Lavan?

Even though Yaakov was tricked, nonetheless he was able to retain his righteousness. This is incredible considering all the things that happens to him! Nonetheless since Yaakov tricked Esav to get the blessings (which he undoubtedly deserved) he is deceived by Lavan measure for measure. Even so, he passed this trial but could not contain his anger when confronted by Lavan.

As we know the patriarchs are human but they knew that they were building the Jewish people and giving them the basics for them to survive throughout the generations. Yaakov had to go to Lavan to understand how to deal with crafty people and still stay true to his creator and go in the path that he needed in order to reach that unlimited potential! It certainly wasn't easy and he suffered along the way but he learned a valuable lesson that he was able to give over to his kids and pass that down to future generations!

Lavan himself is the paradigm of a person and a mentality of wanting to do bad things to the Jewish people. This has not changed throughout the generations just taken different forms. The Jewish people remain strong and united only through their commitment to Torah and mitzvos. A nation not connected to their heritage and their past certainly will have no future. Regardless of what the zionists have tried to achieve over the years, they like other Jewish (non-religious) groups are dying out because they are giving their constituents something that cannot be passed down to the future generations!

The reason is because it is like having a body without a soul. When you don't get that spiritual nourishment the body atrophies and dies. Even if the person is alive, they are just lacking burial since once they continue to go after physical things without anything spiritual that is akin to death itself.

We are living in difficult times where we see the tragedies occur because we in fact exist! We can't help that but we must realize that everything comes from G-d and we need to wake ourselves up that our great army will protect us or other nations will help us because this is the type of war we cannot win. G-d is telling us to only rely on Him because there is nothing else to do. We must internalize this message and live it!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 21: Influencing others has Consequences!

"Whoever leads the people to righteousness, no sin shall occur through him; whoever leads the people to sins hall not be enabled to repent. Moses was righteous and let the people to righteousness, hence the merit of the people is attributed to him as it is said: 'He performed the justice of the L-rd, and his ordinances with Israel." Jeroboam the son of Nebat, sinned and caused others to sin, hence the sin of the people is attributed to him, as it is aid,: 'For the sins of Jeroboam which he sinned and caused Israel to sin'". 

People who are in positions of leadership have the ability to influence others for good and bad. If they lead people to go in G-d's ways and strengthen them, then the Mishna tells us that no sin will befall them. This is incredible because according to this it would seem that their evil inclination is kept at bay because of the great work that they are doing!

What this means is that although this may be true, the evil inclination does not rest and constantly works to ensnare a person into its web so that they can reach their true potential. That being said, working with others and influencing them positively can have a tremendous effect on a person and actually save them from sin.

Rabbi Eliahu Lopian z"l a Torah giant of the last generation and leader in the mussar movement explained that when a person works with others and helps them, bad judgement upon them is avoided because of their gracious acts. This means that if a person wants to guarantee long life (even though there are no guarantees in this world) they should work with people and help them. Why is this so?

If we work with others and try and help them in any which way, we gain tremendous merit because we are doing such a selfless act. We are not doing this because we want merit for our portion in the world to come but rather it is genuine because we are helping them and guiding them to greatness in spiritual things.

This has a tremendous power to protect us because if we are needed in this capacity then G-d will make sure that they are able to continue their holy work making sure that nothing bad befalls them. Although there are other factors involved that could override this, nonetheless it is a good way to protect ourselves.

 It also helps us in giving to others which will result in us wanting to help even more. This is what the Mishna in Ethics of our fathers teaches us that when we do a mitzvah, it causes us to do more mitzvas because we are not only used to doing it but it has a positive influence and causes us to do other good things as well.

If G-d forbid we lead others to go astray, there is nothing worse than this. The reason is because not only are we not helping them to go in G-d's way but we are leading them astray and causing them to rebel against Him. Therefore it is as if their sins are attributed to the one causing them to go in that direction. The question is if everyone has free will, why is it the person causing them to go in that direction is more severely punished than the one who transgressed in the first place?

The one who transgressed will surely be punished but if they were influenced by someone to go in that direction and do just that, the person who caused it is influencing them to go in the wrong direction. This is why the punishment for them is so severe.

This is the reason we have to be careful who we befriend and what influences we allow in our lives. Some are very good and can keep us on the straight and narrow path while others will destroy us and take us away from what we need to do!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Parshas Chayei Sarah: G-d runs the World!

"And it was when he had not yet finished speaking that suddenly Rivka wa coming out she who had been born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nachor, brother of Avraham with her jug upon her shoulder" (Genesis 24:15)

After saying a prayer that he should find a wife for Yitzchak, the Torah then tells us what happened to Eliezer, Avraham's trusted servant. This is uncanny as the story unfolds because Avraham commands him and makes him swear that he is only allowed to find a woman with certain character traits from his family and not from the cursed Canaanites. What are the odds after this prayer is said that the one chosen to be Yitzchak's wife, "just happens" to come to the well to draw water? One in a thousand, a million?

Judaism certainly doesn't believe in coincidences! Everything is run by G-d and has His influence whether we understand it or not. There is a command for all Jews to believe in G-d. Where do we know this mitzvah from? The first of the 10 commandments which states, "I am the L-rd your G-d who has taken you out of the land of Egypt from the house of bondage" (Exodus 20:2)

The commentators are bothered and ask why don't we have proof from the fact that G-d created the world, why does the Torah say that it is because He took them out of Egypt? The answer is because there was no one alive at the time that could verify that G-d created the world whereas by the giving of the Torah, we have 2 - 3 million people who saw G-d face to face on Mount Sinai.

You may ask but how do I know this is true? The answer is because we have many many things in Judaism that correspond to the exodus from Egypty. The whole Passover seder commemorates that by having three matzah's, four cups of wine and the fifth cup of Elijah...We have kiddush Friday night that commemorates the coming out of Egypt as well as the entire evening service...

So there are many things that we do that perpetuate this and it shows how G-d intervenes in history which is most important. Therefore the belief in G-d as a Jew is because is to know Him through knowledge and by a flippant I believe in G-d!

This is an important lesson we learn from the story of Eliezer finding a wife for Yitzchak. G-d runs the world and we should never forget that. We may not always understand His ways but He is there pulling the strings. We sometimes get a glimpse and when we do it makes it that much sweeter!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 19: What Jewish Marriage is all About

"All love which depends on sensual attraction will pass away as soon as the sensual attraction disappears, but if it is not dependent on sensual attraction, it will never pass away. Which love was dependent on sensual attraction? The love of Amnon and Tamar. And which depended on nothing selfish? The love of David and Jonathan"

There is a difference between love and infatuation. Infatuation is something that is fleeting and will not last because once it disappears, then it is gone. Love is something that lasts forever if it is harnessed properly and worked on. This is the way marriage works and has been successful throughout the millennium in the orthodox Jewish community.

When a man meets a woman for the sake of marriage, they need to see if they are compatible and that their life goals are the same. After a number of meetings they will get engaged and prepare for the wedding. After they are married, that is when the real work starts and that is where love will develop. Don't you need love to make the marriage work at the outset?

The answer is that you have to be attracted to your spouse and see them before one is married. Love will develop and if the marriage is strong, no matter what trials and tribulations they will go through then it will last. Marriage, though is something that always needs strengthening. It is like a flower, if you don't water it and take care of it, then it will surely die.

People sometimes feel that the system of dating in the orthodox world seems to be outdated and strange, at best but if we look deeper then we are able to see the beauty in it and why it has been so successful. The main reason that men and women are separated in schools and other things is because these friendships with physical contact always seem to get in the way.

This is why when they date, it is not just about having fun but rather to meet your soul mate, dedicating yourselves to them and vice versa. This can only occur when they are ready for such a relationship. Anything before that is antithetical to Torah and clearly doesn't work as statistics have shown.

At the same time,  if a marriage doesn't work out and cannot be saved then there is a mitzvah to get divorced. This is unfortunate and can happen but when we look at the bigger picture, the divorce rate in the orthodox community is minuscule compared to the greater world.

Another reason that marriages are so successful is because of family purity laws. This means that neither can treat the other like an object because there are certain times during the month where they cannot be together so there must be a deeper bond there! That also means that after being separated and coming together again rejuvenates the marriage and keeps it strong.

Both factors combined lead to a happy vibrant marriage which the secular world has no clue about! it has worked over the centuries and will continue throughout the generations. When it is used properly and implemented then we see the results, otherwise a person is just subject to their evil inclination and will end with infatuation rather than true love!
Thursday, October 29, 2015

Parshas Vaera: This is where the Messiah Comes from?

"And the first born said to younger: "Our father is old, and thee is not a an in the earth to come in to us after the manner of all the earth: come let us make our fahter drink wine and we will lie with him that we may preserve seed of our father". (Genesis 19:31-32).

After the destruction of Sedom the daughters of Lot thought that everything was destroyed and there were no men left. Knowing that neither of them had children, they decide to sleep with their father so that the world would continue. We could ask, why didn't they just travel and see if there were other inhabitants? Not only that but one of the children is called Moav whereby Ruth comes out from him many generations later and she is the harbinger of king David five generations later! This absolutely boggles the mind that this is where kingship and the future messiah will come from!

The lack of foresight and understanding of the daughters is incredible. It seems from here that instead of traveling and seeing what the truth of the matter was they would rather get their father drunk, sleep with him and have kids that way. We could look at it though that they truly thought that the world had been destroyed and it was their obligation to have children so the world would be populated even if that meant that they had to sleep with their father.

It could be for this selfless act they merited that the future king of the Jewish people and the messiah who would redeem the Jewish people from their exile! Normally we would think that any discussion of a future king or redeemer would come from the best stock, richest family...but lo and behold he is descended from an incestuous relationship. How can we understand this better?

When the Torah speaks about the people who helped form the Jewish people, it makes clear that even at their high spiritual level, they are somewhat flawed and not perfect. We do see how a person certainly can raise themselves to a higher spiritual level regardless of who their family is!

At the same time time, the ways of G-d are hidden and we humans cannot fathom how He runs the world. It does not mean we have to sit back and just take things as they are but we have to delve into them and try and understand them to the best of our ability.

This can lead us to a tremendous amount of humility knowing that there are things that are beyond our comprehension. At the same time there is an obligation to believe in Him, not just with a leap of faith but through knowledge. This is a major thing that distinguishes the Jewish people from other so called religions!

The difficult part is seeing the chaos in the world and trying to make sense of it. As my rebbe told me if you are happy with the way G-d runs the world 95% of the time the 5% you don't understand you won't understand in 10 lifetimes. You still have an obligation to serve Him even if we don't understand His ways.

In these days before the messiah comes, let us work on our belief in Him and let Him run the world the way He needs to while we serve Him still!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 18: Retain what you Learn!

"There are four types that sit and learn in the presence of the sages: the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve. The sponge  absorbs all; the funnel receives at one end and spills out at the other; the strainer lets the wine through and retains the dregs; and the sieve lets out the flour dust and retains the fine flour".

The first part of the Mishna describes someone who listens to all the opinions but does not know how to distinguish between what is correct and what is not, The good thing is that this person has the willingness and eagerness to sit and learn but at the same time, they lose out because they can't make any distinctions between the ideas and is lost in the learning.

This is truly tragic because he won't understand what is in front of him and won't know what to do. Eagerness to learn is very important but it must come with proper understanding. Without that, one will not know what or how to keep the Torah!

The second person, the funnel receives at one end and spills out at the other. This means that he accepts what he is being taught but he doesn't understand it at all. This is different than the sponge because someone like that understands what he is being taught but they can't make a decision as to what is right or not This is a step ahead of the funnel because at least he has some level of understanding!!

The third one is a strainer that lets the wine through and retains the dregs. This means that although he listens to what he is being taught, he quickly forgets it and then retains the wrong idea. This  is also not good because although he listens, it goes in one ear and out the other retaining the wrong ideas and going in the wrong direction.

The last one is the sieve who lets out the flour dust and retains the fine flour. He listens to what is being taught and can distinguish between what is right and what is not. This person will really grow in their learning because they are able to retain what they need and let what they don't need go.

This is important because there are many times that we hear many different views and don't know exactly how to handle them. This is why we have to be methodical and take things step by step, carefully analyzing what is in front of us. We need to digest ideas, think about them and then grill them to a certain extent to see if they hold water or not.

We want to learn things fast and then move onto the next subject quickly so we can cover ground. That is good but one must make sure that before they move on they clearly understand what is in front of them otherwise it will be just a waste of time. Take things slow but carefully analyze the subject and then move on. This will lead to success and our ability to retain our learning!
Thursday, October 22, 2015

Parshas Lech Lecha: Was Avraham's Going to War Foolhardy?

"And it came to pass in the days of Amrafel king of Shin'ar Aryokh king of Ellasar, Kedorla'omer king of Elam and Tid'al king of Goyim that these made war with Bera king of Sedom" (Genesis 14:1)

The war of the 4 kings verses the 5 kings is told here because Avraham risked his life so that he could save his nephew Lot! This was one of the ten trials that Avraham went through. Was there an obligation for Avraham to do such a thing and if he would have died would that have been called suicide?

A person is allowed to put their lives in danger to help someone else if there is a doubt whether it is a real danger or not; for a real danger it is forbidden. For example, if a person knows how to swim, he potentially can try and save someone drowning if it not life threatening to him; if he doesn't know how to swim and he tries to save the person, he is held accountable. There is also a 614th commandment which is don't be stupid!

In this case, there was formidable danger for Avraham to try and save the life of his nephew. Although he firmly believed that G-d would help him in this endeavor it is not called fool hardy or stupid; just the opposite! He showed the world how an all powerful G-d can help you in times of great distress!

We shouldn't learn out from here that if Avraham could do we certainly could do this as well. The Vilna Gaon held that someone who lives their lives at an extremely high level and rely on G-d for everything, do not have to put their best foot forward for their needs. He made clear though that this individual relies on G-d for EVERYTHING! Otherwise, we have to try and use our own resources and do what we need to do.

For Avraham, this was a tangible as eating; it was clear to him that G-d would help him in this endeavor and that no harm would come to him. This is the same mentality the Maccabees used when they fought against the Greeks in the story of Chanukah. Did they really believe that a rag tag bunch of Yeshiva students would fight the world power at the time and be successful? They did and won!

If there is a doubt about the danger, one is allowed to proceed and if something does happen, they are not held liable because the danger is not acute but they must be careful nonetheless. Avraham took a great risk in what he did but the belief that G-d would help him was so strong that to him there was no danger in this endeavor.

He passed this test successfully by showing how strong his belief in Him was and spreading that to the world!

Shabbat Shalom


Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 17: Come to the Study Hall and Learn or Become a Fossil!

"There are four types of those who go to the study hall: He who attends and does not practice (the teachings of the study hall) secures the reward for attending; he who practices (leading a good life) but does not attend (to acquire knowledge) secures the reward for practicing; he who attends and practices is saintly; he who neither attends nor practices is wicked"

The first part of the Mishna tells us that one who goes to the study hall but does not practice what he learns gets the reward of going. Rabbenu Yona explains that this person is truly evil because it is bad enough that he transgresses but also he prevents others from doing mitzvos as well! What is the purpose of his going to the study hall if he doesn't intend to practice what he learns?

The purpose of Torah is to change a person. We don't learn Torah like we would any other discipline i.e. mathematics. It is not mental gymnastics and intellectual stimulation we are looking for but a way to implement these ideas into our lives. A person like this Rabbenu Yonah explains is better that they did not come into the world in the first place. Although it is possible that they can do teshuvah (repent) at the same time, this person is clearly showing that what he is doing has no affect on their lives which is the opposite of what the Torah is trying to convey to us!

If a person learns but they don't go to the study hall gets the merit for doing the mitzvos. He doesn't know how to properly keep the mitzvos but he does them according to his understanding. He will certainly receive merit for what he does but without the proper guidance, he won't be able to serve G-d properly. The merit of the mitzvah he will receive but the way to properly do them and apply them to his life will be surely lacking!

If he goes to the study hall and practices what he learns is saintly because he utilizes the proper learning and applies it to their lives. This is what Torah is; learning what G-d wants him to do in this world and applying it to their lives to the best of their ability! Although we may fail this is in some way, nonetheless we make the best effort to learn, review and implement these timely teachings.

The person who doesn't go to learn or practice the teachings of the Torah is wicked because even if by some chance they would come by the study hall, it won't matter because they don't have any intention of learning or keeping the mitzvos. This person is against what the Torah wants from him and seemingly doesn't care. This will surely lead to assimilation, intermarriage and the ultimate destruction of the Jewish people.

We have seen this first hand that when their is little Jewish education, then everything else falls by the wayside. If Torah education isn't important, is there any reason someone born Jewish will be able to pass this priceless heritage down to the next generation. Just like a mule is a very strong animal (a hybrid between a horse and a donkey) it is sterile and can't reproduce. A Judaism without Torah will do the exact same thing!

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Parshas Noach: Robbery is the final seal of man's destruction?

"The earth also was corrupt before G-d and the earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11)

G-d decides to destroy the world and we see from this verse that the reason is because the earth is filled with violence. Many of the commentaries tell us that this was the final nail in the coffin for mankind so to speak but they also transgressed more severe things like immorality and idolatry so why is the final decree because of violence or robbery in this case? Robbery is not even one of the big three sins that a Jew has to give up there life for under any circumstances?

There is a major difference why there are secular laws and Torah laws. Secular laws keep society running (even though it seems that society is crazy even with them!) smoothly and functioning where as Torah laws are there to help us reach our true potential and become great people! What a major difference between the two.

G-d foresaw that because people stole from one another in such great proportions society would not be able to function. Although it is not one of the mitzvos we would have to give up our lives for, nonetheless when these laws break down or people take other people's property without any repercussions, then the morals and ability to live will not be possible.

G-d understood very well the nature of man and knew that this would happen but he created man anyway knowing their failures! There will be some that will make the right decisions and become truly righteous people and this is what G-d's intention was but the way the world was at this time, He had  no choice but to destroy man.

What happened after the flood? Did all mankind become righteous after that? Obviously not but G-d understood that He had to leave man alone by promising that He would never wipe them out again! This is not so simple because G-d knows the future, past and present so He foresaw this.

Even though at the end of Parshas Bereishis it seems that G-d has regret for creating man, this in and of itself is a tough philosophical question to grapple with because if G-d is omnipotent and omniscient then He seemingly cannot have regret now can He? This means that G-d saw the future and even though man would ultimately sin and do the wrong thing, He still hoped they would utilize the good and become the great people they can.

Rashi explains this with the following story: a non-Jew asks one of the rabbis about this verse and wonders if G-d knows the future how can it be that He is sad at having created man? The rabbi answers did you ever have a son born to you? The non-Jew answered yes. The rabbi retorted, "when he was born what did you do?" The non-Jew answered that he made a great party. The rabbi responded, "But don't you know that this child eventually will die?"

The non-Jew replied even though that is true, I am happy when he was born and will celebrate that and if G-d forbid he dies in my lifetime, I will be sad but the two thoughts are not diametrically opposed. This is what the verse means at the end of parshas bereishis.

Since G-d knows the thoughts and actions of man He can still be sad if they choose to make the wrong decisions but He gives them freewill to do so! In our verse G-d saw that if He would let things go as they were society would destroy itself. Better I G-d destroy them before they do it to themselves!

As for the future G-d will allow man to do what he wants but will intervene in history when He feels it is necessary. Even if we do things to ourselves, He will sit back so to speak and let things go even though He is orchestrating everything from behind the scenes.

In these troubling times we have to understand there is a divine plan, we are just not privy to what that is. As my rebbe said to me many times, if you are happy with the way G-d runs the world 95% of the time, the other 5% you won't understand in 20 lifetimes. You still need to learn and focus on doing what you need to do and let G-d does what He needs to do. A lesson that should not be forgotten!

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 16: Giving Charity is worth it!

"There are four types of donors of charity: He who gives and does not want others to give begrudges others; he who wants others to give but will not give himself begrudges himself; he who gives and wants others to give is saintly; he who will not give and does not want others to give is wicked"

The Mishna here describes people who either give or not give charity or want others to give charity or not. An interesting point that the Mishna makes is that whatever a person does is his own decision but why try and convince others not to do something? Why is it that one will go out their way to influence others not to give as well?

The Torah obligates every Jew to give ten percent of their earnings after taxes. If a person wants to they can give up to twenty percent but no more lest they become dependent on others if they give too much. After we have worked hard for our money it is not such an easy thing to want to give to others. We can say that if they work hard as well they will earn enough of a livelihood, so why should I help them?

It could be the person has entered a difficult period or there are other expenses that are dragging them down or they are sick or any number of maladies that could cause a person to need help from others. If we are doing our best to make ends meet and we are doing ok, what a mitzvah it is to help someone else if we can.

G-d teaches us a tremendous lesson by obligating us to give to others. He gives us the opportunity to understand whatever we have is only temporary and we won't be taking any of it in the next world! We are allowed to use it in this world but we can elevate it by helping those less fortunate than us even though we may not have that much to give. It teaches us to appreciate what we have and be benevolent to others.

Rabbi Akiva was once asked if G-d has all the power in the world to give people money, why are there poor people? Rabbi Akiva answered that it gives the opportunity to those that have money to give to others which will save the from any troubles in this world and uproot bad decrees as well G-d forbid that may come upon a person!

A person has to learn from a young age that money they have or whatever they have in this world is only temporary. Yes you need it to live and survive but it has the potential to do so many good things like helping sustain Torah scholars or help out schools...Imagine the holiness of this money when it is used for the right purpose. We can also encourage others and help them with this great mitzvah which they themselves benefit from in so many spiritual ways that we cannot even fathom!

When we encourage others we become partners with G-d. We want to help give of our ourselves which inevitably will make us more humble and have a greater appreciation for everything that G-d has done for us! We must never forget this and always remember what we have is on loan and G-d can take it back whenever He wants!

If G-d forbid we discourage people from helping even though they have free choice to do what they want, we potentially harm others as well. If someone were to have given even a minimal donation and we convince them not to do it, then the tremendous benefits of giving to charity are taken away from them which the Mishna calls evil! Who knows how many bad things that could have been uprooted had this person given charity!! It saves lives and help others at the same time? Isn't that alone worth it?
Thursday, October 8, 2015

Parshas Bereishis: Man's Creation: The Pinnacle of Creation or no better than an Animal!

"And G-d said, 'Let us make mankind in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26)

As the beginning of the book of Genesis discusses what was created on each day, the Torah tells us that G-d creates man after He has created everything else. The question here is the language that is used i.e. that it is used in the plural. Who, if anyone is G-d speaking to here?

Rashi tells us that through G-d's humbleness, He discusses with the angels and heavenly court about the making of man and seemingly asks their opinions of whether it is a good thing to do or not. Rashi also tells us that this language can be problematic because people could make the mistake that there are other gods besides Him. Why would the Torah allow people to make such a mistake and because of their own knowledge, be considered a heretic?

Very simply, G-d gave man free will and the ability to either make the right or wrong decision. When he breathes in the spirit of life into man, the Aramaic translation Unkelos explains that he gave man the ability to speak, think and reason. This means that he did not want to create robots but give people the opportunity to make the right decision of action and sanctify themselves exponentially while living in this world. That free will though may be somewhat limited as well.

 This means that although we have the ability to choose whatever we want to do, we are somewhat limited in that. The reason is because G-d has already put into motion where we came from, who are siblings are, socioeconomic status will be so not everyone starts out the same. Some will have some things easier than others while others will have difficulty in other areas. No two people have the same trials or tribulations and come out of it the same since the source of their soul is not the same.

This tells us that since the soul makeup of each person with their own "baggage" that they are given will react to situations in a different way. The reason for this is because of the life experience that they have been put through here on this earth. With that been said, two people could react very differently to the same situation.

If a person was miraculously saved from a serious illness or was in an accident and they realize how fortunate they have been to survive, another person could look at it as luck since they could say that there was someone in that same situation or similar that didn't survive from what they went through and this person came out of it through luck!

Judaism doesn't believe in luck and life has a purpose, not just based on chance. This philosophy of luck and chance was lived by the people of Amalek and that is what they brought to this world. The idea that things happen, have no purpose and everything is chance.

This ultimately led to Haman's downfall as he was pinned down by angels on Esther's bed as the king came in. How could Haman say he hadn't tried to do anything because he was pinned down by angels! This very statement is the antithesis of everything that the people of Amalek stand for and he was killed because of these beliefs!

G-d gives two eyes for every person to see. We need to learn and continue living through the eyes of the Torah. When we do the right thing, we uplift our body and soul; if not the body and soul are debased. This is the challenge we constantly face.

In this case, man is created last either to show he is the pinnacle of creation or if he acts just according to his animalistic nature, then he is not so great because all the animals were created before him!! His creation depends upon what they do with their lives, either a life of sanctification or pure hedonism.

As we start the first book of the Bible, let us renew our commitment to learn it and become the great people we can.

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of Our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 15: Don't forget your Learning!!

"There are four types of students: 1) One who grasps quickly and forgets quickly, his gain is offset by his loss; 2) one who grasps slowly and forgets slowly, his loss is offset by his gain; 3) one who grasps quickly and forgets slowly, this is a good portion; 4) one who grasps slowly and forgets quickly, this is a bad portion"

The Mishna here speaks about the importance of how a person should study. They should be eager to learn and do what they can to understand while at the same time do proper review so that they will retain it.  After all, what is the point of learning if in a very short amount of time you will forget it! Not everyone will have the ability to understand things quickly; for some it will come easier to others it will not.

What will determine one's level of learning will be on the amount of time they spend trying to understand the material at hand while constantly reviewing what they learn. Without review, how is a person supposed to retain what they learn? We may not find reviewing our learning and constantly going over it fun but at the same time, the more we have thoroughly exhausted the material the more we will acquire the learning at hand.

Many people feel that they have spent a great amount of time learning but they have not mastered it! There are a number of reasons why this might be true. It could be lack of focus, depth or insufficient time to properly review or all three of these things put together. Learning Torah is hard, no question about it but if we live what we learn and love what we do, then the extra time to master it will give us tremendous self-confidence!

 We may give up at the start because learning Torah seems as vast as the sea or as expansive as the heavens above. Nonetheless, we have an obligation to the best of our ability to master it. This means that if someone would ask us a question, we should readily have an answer at the tip of our fingertips!

Forgetting what we learn should be an embarrassment to us because it shows that yes we are interested in the learning but it doesn't stay with us for so long so it doesn't stay with us. The idea of in one ear and out the other comes to play here. The following story with my rebbe, Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit'a will help us understand this idea.

I once was giving over to him something I had prepared and in the middle of my presentation he told me to stop because I had quoted one of the commentators wrong. I had mentioned a different name of one of the rabbis that the text did not quote. He told me that I should go back and look it up because I had not quoted it properly and if I didn't quote it properly then he had no obligation to listen!!

"After all, how could you forget who said this," he shouted at me. "Isn't the Torah important to you enough that you should at least remember who said what?" Taken aback, I told him that I had just seen this commentary the other day and didn't think I misquoted it.

I took the Talmud off the shelf, opened it up and sure enough it was not as I had quoted it. The rav was vindicated and made a very strong point to constantly review and don't forget what you learned! This story will be forever etched in my memory because I can't say when the last time he had seen this commentary but I bet it wasn't very recent!

I took great pride in what transpired here because it taught me a valuable lesson. The Torah is so holy, so precious, can it be we would forget some aspect of it that we learned? The goal is as the Mishna clearly tells us, be eager and quick to learn and love to learn but constantly review so that you retain it and have it at the tip of your fingers. A true lesson for life!
Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sukkos: Living in a Temporary World

As we have finished the month of Elul, made it through the holidays of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we now enter the joyous holiday of Sukkos. We are reminded by this temporary world as we go into our sukkah and bask in the glory of the "tzel d'heminusa" (the shade of belief in G-d). What does the holiday represent for us today?

The whole purpose of why Sukkos is in the fall is to show that we are going into the sukkah for the sake of the mitzvah alone. The reason is because during the fall in most places it is usually starting to get cold and most people would not live outdoors during this time unless it was the for the sake of the mitzvah itself!

Even if our sukkah boards are tightened and sturdy, the schach (branches or palm fronds) put on the top remind us that we are subjected to the elements. No matter how much we put on the top of our sukkah, if it rains the water will come in.  This is the essence of sukkos to be reminded that this world is temporary and just a corridor to the world to come.

This is one of the reasons on the shabbos of Sukkos we read the book of Ecclesiastes. King Solomon begins by telling us that this is a world of vanities and that he has searched out all the wisdom of the world and found nothing better and more meaningful than Torah. He constantly reminds us to remember that we live in a temporary world which is what the sukkah represents.

The sukkah itself as we build it and put up the white sheets that are representative of the clouds of glory that guided us as we came out of Egypt and wandered in the desert. These clouds took care of all our needs, gave us light in the darkness and made sure our clothes never wore out or smelled, which is a great feat considering there were more than two million people in the desert!

Since the sukkah is now our home for the next seven days, we do everything in the sukkah that we would normally do in our house. We eat and drink there, sleep there, speak with our friends there or even on the phone; it is our home outside the home so to speak. That being said, we are not allowed to do anything that would be considered disgusting in the sukkah.

This means that we should not bring in dirty pots to the sukkah or make it dirty in any way all the more so we shouldn't speak badly about others or denigrate them in the sukkah either! Not that it would be better if we did that in our own homes but to do that in the sukkah is even worse!

Sometimes the weather does not cooperate and makes being in the sukkah uncomfortable whether it be from the cold or heat. Nonetheless, our temporary dwelling gives us the ability to just be alone with G-d and His world, the "tzel dehemnusa". If we change the letters around in the word "tzel" we get the word "letz" which means to scoff or mock.

If we use the sukkah properly and encapsulate its timeless message, then we get the benefit of the sukkah and all that it entails. If not, then we make a mockery of it and scorn it which everyone would agree is not good,

As we take our lulav and esrog and shake it in six directions representing G-d's dominion over this world and the world above, we are reminded just how fragile life is. We share the joy of sukkos and remember man's purpose in this world by doing everything in our power on a daily basis to tune into His world and do what He wants us to do!!

Have a great Sukkos!!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Parshas Haazinu: You think you know better than G-d?

"He is the rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice: a G-d of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Deuteronomy 32:4-5)

Rav Moshe Sternbuch Shlit"a in Ta'am V'Da'as writes that mankind is baffled by the hiddenness of G-d's ways and how He runs the world. There are righteous people that suffer and evil people that seem to have it easy and they lack nothing while the righteous constantly suffer and seemingly have many difficulties in this world. Not only that but they see G-d's chosen people who have constantly suffered and gone through pogroms and holocausts!!

Rav Sternbuch explains that this world is just a corridor to the next world. What we do in this world matters only in context of the next world. We will only understand and have clarity at that time but when we live on this world in a physical body it is impossible to comprehend G-d's ways! Sometimes we may get a glimpse of why some things may occur but in general it is impossible to fathom what transpires here!

If we understand what transpires in this world on a soul level, things become a bit clearer. This means that each soul has a unique purpose that only it can fulfill here. It has to go through certain trials and tribulations to perfect itself in this world and then return to the next world. The soul has great difficulty though shining here because it is stuck in a physical body!

For the body and soul to succeed it must be steeped in Torah and mitzvos to reach that perfection. Just like the body needs nutrients for it to survive, the soul must also otherwise it will die. Even if we understand this idea to a certain extent, it still doesn't fully explain what we see; some die young, some suffer from horrible diseases and others seemingly have no issues or minor ones at best as they muddle their ways through life.

Where is the fairness and justice you may ask? It's there we just don't have the eyes to be able to see what is directly in front of us! Can it really be that G-d's chosen people, who He loves like a first born child really suffer so much throughout the millennium? At face value a lot of what we see doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

At the same time, it is as if we are in the army; we do what we are told and have an obligation to serve. G-d has manufactured a book for us to live by and grants us life; because of things we see that we don't understand we should have the chutzpah to think we understand Him and his ways?

Everyone should read carefully the end of the book of Job to see G-d's response to him about the suffering that he endures. Just read the vivid description of the Leviathan to see how great G-d's creation is and how He controls nature. We need to learn to be more humble and understand there is something that controls the world and keeps things at an equilibrium.

How dare we think we can figure Him out and claim to know what's right and fair. We have no idea how things play out the way they do. This does not mean we are just blind sheep following We have to admit when things are beyond us and when to put ourselves on the line for Him!

As I have heard many times, if you are happy with the way G-d runs the world 95% of the time, then the 5% that we don't understand we won't come to understand them in 10 lifetimes. This is not a leap of faith but a reality. When we realize this we will be able to serve Him better and understand our place!!

Shabbat Shalom
Thursday, September 17, 2015

Parshas Vayelech: Let go of your Ego!!

"Moshe summoned Yehoshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel 'Be strong and courageous for you shall come with this people to the land that Hashem swore to heir forefathers to give them, and you shall cause them to inherit it". (Deuteronomy 31:7)

Moshe in front of the entire nations tells Yehoshua that he will take the people into the land that G-d swore to our forefathers. This is truly amazing as at the very end of Moshe's life, he strengthens Yehoshua in the eyes of the people to lead them into the promised land. Why is this so remarkable though? After all, Moshe is told he won't be going in the land so why should he not praise his successor in the eyes of the people?

There are different interpretations as to why Moshe is not allowed into the land and what exactly the desecration of G-d's name was. Even if Moshe hit the rock, why should that be any less miraculous that water comes out from it instead of speaking to it? Not only that, but for that seemingly small infringement Moshe is not allowed into the land.

The Torah tells us that Moshe was the most humble of all men. That being said, when G-d tells Him he is not allowed in the land Moshe prays and prays and prays to have this decree overcome but G-d tells him enough prayer, you are not going in, period! Moshe definitely did not have it easy with the Jewish people.

He came under fire from them many times, making his life miserable. At the same time, he understood his position and he understood what it meant to be a leader. He could have told this to Yehoshua privately and not made such a big deal about it This could have looked like having sour grapes though in the sense that he was still upset about not being allowed into the land so why should he make such a big deal to give Yehoshua that big boost of confidence in front of the people?

The answer is that great spiritual and moral leaders look beyond themselves and their own egos for what is best for the people. In this case, although he is not allowed to enter the land, he backs G-d's decision one hundred percent by demonstrating his confidence in Yehoshua in front of the nation.

Although the people would be missing Moshe's leadership he thoroughly backs Yehoshua which will put the people at ease in his absence. This is truly remarkable because most people would not be able to do this. Keep in mind as well that G-d tells Moshe that he will die after the Jewish people go to war against Midyan. What does Moshe do?

He directs the people to war immediatley knowing that once they are successful he will no longer be in this world. Many of us would put off such a thing for a few more moments to live here but Moshe goes full force knowing that it will quicken his days here.

Shouldn't we all live up to these ideals? Definitely easier said than done but if we truly want to be the people we can become then the first thing we need to do is become more selfless and let our egos go out the window. That doesn't mean that we have to be walked upon and abused; we should have self-esteem but the more we learn to forget about ourselves, the more godlike we will become.

We get ourselves into trouble many times by refusing to let go of that. This is something very hard to do because we have pride and we don't want others to step on it or try and destroy. No one ever said the Torah was easy to live by but our goal in this world is to do just that.

Shabbat Shalom

Ethics of our Fathers: Chapter 5 Mishna 14: The Repentance Process in the Eyes of G-d and Man

"There are four kinds of dispositions: Easy to become angry and easy to be pacified, his loss is compensated by his gain; hard to become angry and hard to be pacified, his gain is offset by his loss; hard to become angry and easy to be pacified is godly; easy to become angry and hard to be pacified is wicked".

The Mishna discusses the benefits and weakness of anger and pacification. Anger is one of the worst character traits a person can have and the Talmud tells us that when a person is angry even if they were standing over the pit of gehinom (hell) they wouldn't repent because they are caught up in the moment and lose themselves.

Obviously it is forbidden to be angry but there are times when something happens and a person is caught off guard that they lose it in some way. The Mishna here tells us that even if this happens some times but not often if a person is hard to be pacified then his gain is offset by his loss. Pacification is something we all need to learn and not to stand on principle.

This is much easier said than done because if someone has wronged us in any way, most often we will not forgive them fully and the relationship has totally changed. This is a major difference between man and G-d and how the entire teshuva (repentance) process works.

Before Yom Kippur, a Jew is obligated to forgive immediately for the wrong that someone may have done to them. The Talmud tells us that we should forgive that person immediately because if we look past what someone has done to us then G-d will look past at what we have done against Him throughout the year. How does this work exactly?

When we ask forgiveness from someone we don't say "well I did this and that to you, do you forgive me?" That most likely could get you a well deserved punch in the nose. What a person should do is to tell them that if you have done anything against them, will they forgive you and they should immediately forgive you because if they don't then you could end up bearing a grudge and taking that transgression with you into Yom Kippur which is something you don't want to do.

G-d gave the Jewish people this novel idea of teshuvah but in reality it should never work for a number of reasons. First of all, if someone has wronged us and they try to make amends how can we truly forgive them? After all, look at the damage that has been done; the relationship is never the same. At the same time we should forgive them but that doesn't mean I have to be best friends; it just means that I can't hold a grudge which isn't a good thing either.

As for our relationship between man and man repentance and uprooting what has been done doesn't set the relationship back to where it once was. When we sin against G-d on the other hand, our sincere repentance not only uproots what we have done but we are even closer to G-d afterwards.

This is truly remarkable because when we transgress against what G-d wants us to do, we draw a wedge between us and Him. We pollute the universe spiritually and physically. Even if we do things wrong over and over and over again, if we repent, G-d looks at us as not only with a clean slate but we are even closer to Him. How does this work?

G-d understands the nature of man and the fact that they were created from the ground and from this world they will sometimes give in to their evil inclination. This is nothing more than rebellion against Him whether we do things on purpose or by accident. At the same time He has a tremendous amount of patience and allows us to come back to Him by admitting what we did was wrong and how we are going to fix our ways.

We could understand this by someone who only transgresses some of the time. In reality we all transgress and after the first number of times G-d can so-to-speak cut us some heavenly slack but after the 10th, 11th. 12th time...why should He not react and allow us to come back to Him and wipe the slate clean and uproot what we have done totally?

The reason is because He is G-d and not man. He lives and acts in ways that we cannot begin to fathom and the miracle of teshuvah is that if we admit what we have done wrong and sincerely want to draw close to Him He grants us that. Nothing short of miraculous because in human terms this doesn't exist.

How many second chances is a person going to give someone after they habitually do things against them? This is the hope and prayer we have at this time before Yom Kippur to remember G-d's infinite mercy. At the same time, though if we have wronged someone else we should ask their forgiveness and grant it to others as well, immediately!
Thursday, September 10, 2015

Parshas Nitzavim: The Covenant between G-d and the Jewish People Never Ends

"For you to pass into the covenant of Hashem, your G-d, and into His imprecation that Hashem. your G-d, seals with you today, in order to establish you today as a people to Him and that He be a G-d to you, as He spoke to you and as He swore to your forefathers to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob" (Deteronomy 11-12).

The Torah here tells us that the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is as valid as it is today as when G-d swore to your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This covenant is not only the same but the Torah itself is the same as well and has not changed. This is one of the thirteen principles of faith: "I firmly believe that the whole Torah which we now possess is the same which was given to Moses our teacher, may he rest in peace".

Moses has passed this on to the Jewish people and after Moshe's death, Joshua will lead the Jewish people into the promised land, Torah and its timely message intact. Nowhere in the Torah is it stated explicitly or even hinted to that this has changed in any way, shape or form. This is what has kept the Jewish people together throughout the millennium.

People often make the mistake and think we have the ability to change it, make it more modern for today's age or even G-d forbid throw things out that seem antiquated and old fashioned. If that were to be true, then the more the Torah has changed and the more innovative we are, the masses of Jews would be flocking to keep whatever is left of it, right?

Out of all the so-called movements within Judaism the only one with any capability of passing it down to the next generation is the Orthodox. With seemingly no intermarriage rate as opposed to 60% or more by the other movements, Orthodoxy is thriving!

This does not mean that they don't have any issues but in the bigger scheme of things, they seem to have the formula that works and that is all that matters. At the end of the day, philosophy mumbo jumbo doesn't really matter if the message cannot be passed down to the next generation.

When we see the direction in which the world is going (and it has been a downward spiral for a while) morality and honesty is needed now more than ever. If the family structure is threatened, then the hope of attaining any morality now dissipates exponentially.

If we would take the consequences of these actions to their logical conclusion then the United States as we know it would not cease to function. The reason is that there would be less children brought into the world (even less than the average now) which would mean even less kids and the future generations would look bleak at best.

With this said, because of the death rate and the almost non-existent birth rate that would exist, where would we have workers for the next generation? People will say that this way of thinking is archaic because there will be people that will have children and men and women will still get married so what is the big deal if this is passed?

The Torah here explains that the covenant between G-d and the Jewish people is forever and it doesn't change because if we do decide that we need to spruce things up or take thngs out then the results are catastrophic!

The purpose of the Torah is not only to keep society functioning properly but to change man and help them reach their potential. The laws are not set up just to make sure that society functions properly which is why we the secular laws exist otherwise there would be even greater chaos than what we witness today!

The Torah is not a five year obligation to renew and if we feel like doing it we will if not not. It is G-d given and we have to the best of our ability to live up to its high standards. This world is not a world of fairy tales, sports or movies but bringing G-d's presence to this world and absolute morality!

This is what the essence of Rosh Hashanah is. We are in synagogue most of the day proclaiming G-d to be king of the world and we are fighting for our lives that G-d should give us another year of life, health and livelihood. As we read the Una Sana Tokef in Musaf we are inspired by its chilling words.

Who will die by fire, water, starvation, who will become rich, who will become poor... When we look around and see that there are others that not among us, why do we brazenly think that we will be here next year? The only reason that will happen is if G-d grants us life!

Life means physical life but also spiritual life as well. We get judged on the Torah we learned last year. Did I put my best effort when learning? Did I learn when I had time or did I waste it away doing other things? Did I implement what I learned or did I just learn it for intellectual stimulation but the implementation I just gave lip service?

We are just a few days from Rosh Hashanah, shouldn't we be taking stock of this now more than ever or do we just lull ourselves back to sleep thinking that G-d will continue to give me live and satisfy my every need. There are no guarantees and we certainly cannot rest on our laurels.

May we all be inscribed in the book of life and have a meaningful Rosh Hashanah

Shabbat Shalom