GOOD MORNING! Recently I attended a gathering to find practical efforts to help Israel. It was a wonderful program and I hope other communities will follow suit. There were sessions on media watch, developing future leaders, non-Jewish education, economic development, political lobbying. So, what was missing? The Spiritual component -God! Anyone who approaches the situation of the Jewish people through purely socio-economic-political perspective has either never read the Torah and studied Jewish history or has failed to take the lessons to heart.
The reality is that the Jewish nation operates on a level above nature. David Ben-Gurion once said, "A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist." By all natural laws, the Jewish people should have ceased to exist. The sociologist will tell you that for a nation to thrive it must have a common land, a common language and a common history. The Jewish people have been dispersed across the world, divided by language and the common history starts 2,000 years ago and heads backwards.
We are a fraction of a percent of the world's population and probably the record holder for most persecuted and exterminated people throughout history - and we are still here! They killed us because we wouldn't convert and they killed us because we wanted to assimilate. Something is going on far beyond the "natural" course of events.
What does it say in the Torah?
"If you will follow My decrees and observe My commandments and perform them ... then you will dwell securely in your land. I will provide peace in the land, and you will lie down with none to frighten you; I will cause wild beasts to withdraw from the land..." (Leviticus 26:3-6).
The Almighty has a covenant with us. Our tradition tells us that all of our souls were at Mt. Sinai and agreed to the Covenant:
"Not with you alone do I seal this covenant ... but with those who are not here with us today" (Deuteronomy 29:13:14).
We, Jews in later generations, do not have the option to opt out.
Whether we like or don't like the Covenant and the commandments and whether or not we choose to keep the Covenant and observe the commandments, we are obligated to keep them and are responsible for the consequences of our actions. Call it the Laws of Nature. It's reality, just like eating high fat foods and not exercising has reality consequences for one's health. Whether or not a person likes the laws of gravity, if he drops a glass, there are consequences.
The Almighty's consequences are a wake-up call for us as individuals and for us as a people to introspect on our level of belief and observance and to upgrade our lives through a better level of fulfillment of His Torah. The wake up call cuts across all labels, movements, branches, self-definitions - it's for all Jews, for the whole Jewish people!
The Talmud, Sota 37b, clarifies the meaning of every soul being at Mt. Sinai for the giving of the Torah: "Each and every Jew is a guarantor for each other." The Jewish people are intertwined with each other. What one Jew does impacts each and every other Jew on a spiritual level. We cannot say, "What I do doesn't matter." It matters not only to you, but to all of the Jewish people. Envision the proverbially individual who is drilling a hole only under his seat in the boat.
What can we do? Each of us, on whatever level of observance, must strive to do more. In order to do more, we must know more. Read the Artscroll Stone Edition of the Torah to understand our history and our covenant with the Almighty. Read To Be a Jew by Rabbi Haim Donin which gives a clear and comprehensive overview of the Mitzvot and of living a life filled with Torah value. Both books are available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242. Knowledge impacts belief which impacts action!
The Almighty loves each and every one of us!
"Only your forefathers did the Almighty cherish to love them, and He chose their offspring after them - you - from among all the peoples this day" (Deuteronomy 10:15).
Whatever our level of belief and observance, He waits patiently like a parent waiting for a wayward child to take a step back towards the right path. Think of what you do in your day and where you can improve. That's where Rabbi Donin's book can be of great help.
The Almighty wants us to not only fulfill his Torah, but to love each other. There is a special protection for the Jewish people when we are united. Idol worship is considered one of the worse transgressions, yet in the Midrash Tanchuma, Tzav #7, Rabbi Elazar HaKapar says, "Great is shalom. Even if the Jewish people were to worship idols, but were unified as one group, judgment wouldn't come upon them." We must do what we can to engender greater love for each other.
Recently, I saw in the "Community Awareness Bulletin" (Volume 11, Number 3 published by Hakhel) a guideline, which I have adapted, for increasing love amongst Jews (and it will work for all people!):
- Did you say hello to at least one person before he said hello to you?
- Did you make someone smile or laugh today? Did you boost someone's spirits?
- Were you truly happy to hear good news about a friend? Even if you wish that the same good news would have happened to you?
- Did you judge someone favorably today? Did you see people positively - or did you sum up their lifestyle, pros and cons, with one glance of the eye?
- Did you speak only positively about others and not listen to others speaking negatively about others?
- Did you visit a sick person? Help the needy in some way? Invite a guest for a meal?
- Did you pray for the welfare of another person and for the Jewish people?
- Did you say the Shema in the morning and evening?
- Did you read a psalm to the merit of the Jewish people?
- Did you deal with people honestly?
There are three areas of spirituality: (A) Between you and the Almighty (trust in God, belief in God) (B) Between you and other people (honesty, kindness, love) (C) Between you and yourself (your attitudes, outlooks, integrity). Focus and let your attitude be "What can I do more?" Before you go to sleep each night go through your day, review your behavior, and resolve what you can do better.
I once went to a macrobiotic nutritionist who told me that he had excellent results in curing certain types of cancer - when people would follow the rigorous guidelines of the diet. "What breaks my heart," he said, "is when the wife of the patient says, 'Who's going to cook the food that way? Not me!'" "She is saying, 'Let him die. I don't want to change my lifestyle and go to all that trouble and inconvenience necessary to save him.'" If we truly love Israel and our fellow Jews, we MUST go to "all that trouble and inconvenience" to save them ... and ourselves!
Torah Portion of the Week
Concluding the 7 days of inauguration for the Mishkan (Portable Sanctuary), Aaron, the High Priest, brings sacrifices for himself and the entire nation. Nadav and Avihu, sons of Aaron, bring an incense offering on their own initiative, and are consumed by a heavenly fire (perhaps the only time when someone did something wrong and was immediately hit by "lightning").
The Cohanim are commanded not to serve while intoxicated. The inaugural service is completed. God then specifies the species which are kosher to eat: mammals (those that have cloven hoofs and chew their cud), fish (those with fins and scales), birds (certain non-predators), and insects (certain species of locusts). The portion concludes with the laws of spiritual defilement from contact with the carcasses of certain animals.
CANDLE LIGHTING - April 5:
(or go to http://aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:57 Hong Kong 6:14 Honolulu 6:30
J'Burg 5:43 London 7:22 Los Angeles 5:59
Melbourne 5:51 Miami 6:21 Moscow 6:56
New York 6:07 Singapore 6:46
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Look to this day ...
for yesterday is but a dream,
and tomorrow is only a vision ...
but today well-lived makes
every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
In loving memory of