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Posts on the topic of "Holidays"

My Stolen Bicycle

Sep 19, 2012 at 04:18:04 AM

This year, I got a shock right before Rosh Hashanah.

My bike was stolen.

About a year ago I received a bicycle as a birthday gift. (My first one since elementary school!) It quickly became my main mode of transportation, as well as my primary source of exercise. I took it everywhere and loved it.

Last week I rode it to a meeting in Jerusalem, near the Old City. The meeting lasted only two hours, but when I came out my bike was totally gone – no helmet, no lock, no trace remaining.

It was a real shock and, after filing a police report, I had a long walk home to think about why this might have happened to me.

I realized that I'd been feeling a bit self-inflated about my bike. It just had a tune-up and I was feeling really great about it. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that – the Almighty wants us to be energized and productive.

But I was harboring a bit of self-pride about the whole thing. You know, "Aren't I so cool." And this was getting in the way of my building a relationship with God.

You see, a relationship with God starts with the recognition of His profound greatness. The more we see the unparalleled power of God, the more we put our human-ness into perspective. Arrogance gets in the way of that; humility enables it to happen.

Unfortunately humility has gotten a bad rap. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less. Humility is the recognition of our own place in the universe. By not letting our ego – our sense of "self" – get in the way, we can tap into our near-infinite Divine potential. As "the most humble of all men" (Numbers 12:3), that humility is precisely what made Moses the greatest of all time.

As Rabbi Noah Weinberg writes, the Talmud likens arrogance to idol worship: both push away the presence of God.

Rosh Hashanah is the key day of the year to forge a connection with God. So it seems that going into Rosh Hashanah, having my bike taken away was the dose of humility necessary to knock me down a notch… and make that deep "High Holiday" connection with God.

And there's more good news: My homeowner's insurance pays for a replacement.

Shana Tova!

Visitor Comments: 2

(1) Lisa, November 14, 2012 12:28 PM

So now how do you feel on your bike???

Your bike was stolen bc somebody wanted it. Things get stolen....that is why " do not steal" is one of the Top Ten. I don't think it was bc you thought you were " so cool." And frankly what's wrong with feeling a bit "cool." Doesn't it say in the Torah that we should always be samayach? Glad you got another bike... Enjoy it !!! Tb

rozanne, December 7, 2012 8:02 AM

Iagree totally

Maybe the thief needed it more . . . . . .


Define Necessity

Sep 15, 2012 at 06:41:01 PM

Rosh Hashanah is a day when we take stock and re-evaluate our lives – priorities, goals, relationships, the whole shebang.

To me, it starts with defining our bottom-line necessities in life, and then building back up from there.

It's a bit of hard work... but doesn't everything valuable in life require investment and effort?

Wishing you all a sweet year, filled with peace in your heart, in your home, and in our precious world.

Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Anonymous, September 16, 2012 10:26 AM

love it

Thank you so much. Just what I needed to read and see! Baruch Hashem. It is time to detach ourselves from the lure of materialism and connect to that of principal importance in life - our Spirituality. Shana Tova


In Search of the Real You

Aug 31, 2012 at 07:57:44 AM

We are now in the Jewish month of Elul, which leads into Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is the year's biggest opportunity to get our act together, to look deep inside and make those changes that we all know are painful but necessary. (Do I sound like a presidential candidate?)

It all starts with some brutal self-analysis, and a plan of action. The first step in making a plan is to determine your goals:

• What do I want my life to look like five years from now?
• How will I implement these goals?
• Do I have a series of achievable, short-term goals?
• What system will I use to monitor my progress?

This is not about solving the Iranian threat or finding the cure for cancer. It's all about getting down to the real you.

It's two weeks till Rosh Hashanah. You deserve a better you. And now's the time to get started.

To get started, check out some of these great tools on

Spiritual Accounting System
20 Questions for the New Year
Making a Plan for Your Life

Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Jong, September 2, 2012 12:38 PM


Thanks Rabbi for these valuable sources!

stub in the Wall Street Journal

Apr 6, 2012 at 02:57:41 AM

Sometimes, our efforts don't go unnoticed.

The front page of today's Wall Street Journal profiles's popular Passover videos:

One Orthodox website,, has produced a takeoff on the rock band Queen's iconic "Bohemian Rhapsody." Called "Passover Rhapsody, a Jewish Rock Opera," it features goofy-looking singing puppets who chant a holiday message using the same melodies and rhythms as the original song.

Last year, the site summoned a religious hero to star in its "Google Exodus." The clip shows Moses consulting Google to research topics like "awesome plagues" and using Facebook to send messages to "" With each key click audible over a light jazzy tune, he types "Let My People Go. Now." It has been viewed more than two million times and "is still going strong," says Rabbi Nechemia Coopersmith,'s chief editor.

Interestingly, we received a few comments wondering why we used a rock song to tell the Passover story.

Let's answer by looking at the Passover Seder itself:

Did you ever notice that when we raise the matzah, we make the "hamotzi" blessing to thank God for "bringing forth bread from the ground"? This is odd because actually God brings wheat from the ground - and man turns it into bread!

All of God's creation exists of raw materials, which we are then enjoined to transform into positive, life-affirming products and ideas. The Talmud says that one of the questions every person is asked when they get to Heaven is: "Did you enjoy all the fruits of the world?" On Seder night, we eat a festive meal to celebrate the freedom that gives us the ability to sanctify life in all its aspects.

Interestingly, the Seder is the only one of the 613 mitzvot that is performed specifically at night. This is reminiscent of how the Jews in Egypt had sunk to the 49th level of spiritual impurity. At that moment of greatest darkness, we were redeemed. Thus the eternal message of Passover: we must work to turn the darkness into light.

It is with all this in mind that we "reworked" a popular rock song to tell the Passover story. Judging from the hundreds of positive comments, this year's "Passover Rhapsody" was a huge success.

May it be a harbinger of great things to come for all the Jewish people, and may this Passover usher in an era of true peace and prosperity. Chag Sameach!


Selling Chametz

Apr 1, 2012 at 04:06:08 AM by:

With Passover just around the corner, this is a good opportunity to revisit one of the most common – yet misunderstood – facets of Jewish life: the selling of chametz.

Many of us have a lot of chametz around the house and would like some way of disposing of it, without having to destroy it all (think Johnny Walker Blue Label). Hence the institution of selling chametz to a non-Jew prior to the holiday.

This is not a charade; the sale must be legally valid. If not done properly, the chametz will remain in your possession throughout Passover. That’s why we have a knowledgeable rabbi arrange the sale.

Remember: Even chametz “sold” to a non-Jew must be labeled as such and put away.

The sale contract is worded in a way so that the non-Jew actually has the option of purchasing all the chametz. Inevitably, however, the non-Jew winds up making a small profit from the entire transaction by transferring back the chametz right after the holiday.

This year, Rabbi Jonathan Gross of Omaha, Nebraska sold some chametz to the billionaire investor Warren Buffet. Buffet joked that next year he would bargain down the price.

Just hope that the non-Jew who buys your chametz doesn't decide to undergo conversion during the week of Passover. That would really complicate things!

You can sell your chametz online by clicking here.


Hero Mom

Mar 7, 2012 at 07:21:06 AM

By now you've probably heard about Stephanie Decker, the Indiana mom who lost her legs protecting her children when a monster tornado sucked her 8,000-square-foot house into its vortex and caused it to completely collapse.

Stephanie describes how she and her two small children went down into their basement to ride out the storm when the violent winds began to break glass and literally move her house. In a split-second decision, Stephanie tied them up in a blanket and threw her own body on top of them in order to protect them from falling debris. Everything from furniture to steel beams landed on her ― puncturing a lung, breaking seven ribs, severing her two legs.

Stephanie prayed to survive and to be able to see her children grow up. Her 8-year-old son crawled out from the rubble and ran for help, while Stephanie made a farewell video on her cellphone. In the end, Stephanie's life was spared and the two children walked away totally unscathed.

This is one of those unique stories that gets to your core ― the kind that brings great sadness and inspiration at the same time. And with Jews around the world celebrating Purim today, I keep coming back to the words of Queen Esther. She knew that approaching the King without an appointment was punished by death, yet she viewed her mission to save the Jewish people thusly: "If I perish, I perish" (Esther 4:16).

When it comes to sacrificing for something that we deeply believe in, we are capable of super-human efforts.

And this has me asking: What am I capable of?

If Stephanie Decker could give up her legs for her children, what can I do for my family? Is there any sacrifice too great? If Esther was ready to give up everything to save the Jewish people, what can I do for my community? What could I do for the world?

Purim is a holiday of great joy. It is also a time of awesome spiritual power. Our Sages say that before embarking on her dangerous mission, Esther recited Psalm 22 ("Ayelet Hashachar"). So too, every individual can recite Psalm 22 and pour his heart out to the Almighty on Purim day.

The world is in desperate need of repair, on so many fronts. We each have a super-human capacity to fix things, to achieve the Jewish mission of tikkun olam. Let's make this Purim a great one.

with thanks to Yonit Rothchild

Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Yaffa, March 8, 2012 5:42 PM

Thank you, this piece was very moving. I think as Jews, we are continually contemplating what we would do in extreme situations. We hear stories that are part of our history and ask ourselves what we would do if we found ourselves in that place. It's just part of our education and the way we are raised.


Pre-Purim Call for Unity

Mar 6, 2012 at 11:56:26 PM by:

The day before Purim, in response to the many dangers threatening the Jewish people in Israel and around the world, a call has gone out to unite for a few shared minutes in the reciting of Psalms.

King David wrote the Psalms as he faced life’s many challenges, both personal and national. The beautiful poetry and emotions bound up in these Psalms have inspired Jews and Gentiles alike for over 3,000 years.

An effort is being organized for March 7, 2012 – the fast of Esther, one of the most important days of the year for Jewish prayer. Esther called for a fast, knowing that through soul-searching the Jews would forge a spiritual connection necessary to make their mission successful. And it paid off.

The idea is that at on Wednesday, at exactly 11 a.m. (in every time zone), people should recite chapters 28, 32, 79, 92 and 22.

This should be followed by the ancient affirmation of Jewish unity:

Our brethren, the entire family of Israel, who are in distress and captivity, whether on sea or dry land – may the Omnipresent have mercy on them and remove them from distress to relief, from darkness to light, from subjugation to redemption – now, speedily and soon. And let us say: Amen.

The great rabbis in Israel have endorsed this effort, including Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv, Rav Aharon Leib Steinman, and Rav Shmuel Halevi Wosner.

The hour is late and the need is great. Join the effort and unite!

Visitor Comments: 1

(1) Michael, March 7, 2012 9:43 AM

I joined in!

I'm not big on saying Psalms, but I did this and really felt connected to the power of many other Jews joining in. The text is actually short and only takes a few minutes.For those in other time zones who haven't yet hit 11 o'clock, I strongly recommend it.