GOOD MORNING! The story is told of a rabbi, priest and minister who were discussing their problems. The priest laments that he is unable to rid the belfry of its pigeons; the minister expresses his distress at not being able to remove the mice from the pantry. The rabbi confides that he had both problems, but found the solution. They beg him to share it with them, so he says, "I don't think it will help you, but one Saturday I got together all of the pigeons and the mice and Bar Mitzvahed them ... and they never came back."
We laugh because it unfortunately reflects the situation in many places in this era of Jewish history. How does one ensure his Jewish posterity? (By the way, I once heard a person respond that the answer to "Who is a Jew?" is not whether your grandparents were Jewish, but rather, whether your grandchildren will be Jewish...)
For many, being Jewish is like being a member of a club. If you want to be active or go to the club, you make your choice, but it doesn't have much impact on how you lead your life. I was brought up in a Reform congregation in Portland, Oregon. One thing I learned in Sunday School tremendously impacted me: Judaism is A.W.O.L. -- A Way Of Life. It permeates how you lead your life and how you make your decisions. And it takes knowledge (which is why I write this weekly fax...)
One of the best writers for clarity, depth and breadth is Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, of blessed memory. Every Jewish household should have a number of Jewish books -- The Artscroll Torah, The Artscroll Siddur (prayer book) and The Aryeh Kaplan Anthology amongst them. They include Maimonides' Principles -- the Fundamentals of Jewish Faith, The Real Messiah?, The Infinite Light -- A Book About God, If You were God, and Sabbath -- Day of Eternity. Knowledge leads to action and action is the essential goal. Children develop their feelings towards Judaism by observing how their parents live their lives Jewishly. Is Judaism part and parcel of everyday living? Is there a Shabbat? Is there Jewish learning going on in the home? Is there a meaningful involvement with a synagogue?
There are many forms of Judaism: Cardiac Judaism -- in my heart I am a Jew. Gastronomic Judaism -- we eat Jewish foods. Pocketbook Judaism -- I give to Jewish causes. Drop-off Judaism -- drop the kids off at Sunday school and go out to breakfast. Two-Times a Year Judaism -- attend service Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The question that every Jewish parent has to ask is: What do I want my children to have for a Jewish heritage?
I started with a story so I'll end with a story. There was once a great rabbi said to have the power to see the future. A young "know it all" decided that he would expose the rabbi and embarrass him. The boy devised a plan: He would come to the rabbi with his hands behind his back cradling a little bird. He would then ask the rabbi, "What do I have?" If the Rabbi replied, "A bird" the boy would ask, "Is it dead or alive?" If the rabbi responded, "Alive" then the boy would break the bird's neck and hold it out for all to scorn the rabbi. When the boy came before the rabbi he asked, "What do I have in my hands?" The rabbi replied, "A bird." "Is it dead or alive?" The rabbi gave the boy a piercing look and then answered, "The answer is in your hands." The same with your Jewish posterity. It is in your hands.
Portion of the Week
This is the portion that invokes the Jewish people to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of people are to survive as an entity, they must have common values and goals -- a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we can learn much about our personal and national destiny. It is truly a "must read!"
Some of the mitzvot: Revere your parents, observe Shabbat, no idol worship, gifts to the poor, deal honestly, love your fellow Jew, refrain from immoral sexual relationships, honor old people, love the proselyte, don't engage in sorcery or superstition, do not pervert justice, observe kashruth and more. The portion ends, "You shall observe all My decrees and ordinances ... you shall be holy ... I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine."
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "Love your fellow man as yourself, I am the Almighty" (Leviticus 19:18). The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) relates that a non-Jew came to Hillel and said to him, "Convert me on the condition that you will teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel accepted his condition and told him, "What you dislike, do not do to your friend. This is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary. Go and learn."
Since Hillel was referring to the commandment of Love Your Neighbor, why didn't he just mention the words of this verse?
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz of the Mir Yeshiva explained that this is to teach us an important principle. From the words "love your fellow man" one might think that as long as one feels the emotion of love towards others, one fulfills this commandment. The truth is that just feeling love alone is not sufficient. Rather, love must motivate us to do positive things for others and to refrain from any actions or words that could cause someone pain or suffering.
HaKsav V'HaKabballah, an encyclopedic Torah work, gives the following practical advice on fulfilling this mitzvah:
- Treat others with respect
- Seek the best for others
- Feel the pain of others
- Greet others with warmth
- Give the benefit of the doubt
- Help others
- Be willing to make moderate loans or gifts
- Do not consider yourself better than others.
CANDLE LIGHTING - May 5:
Jerusalem 6:42 Miami 7:36 New York 7:39
L.A. 7:22 Hong Kong 6:29 Singapore 6:49
Guatemala 6:02 Honolulu 6:32 J'Burg 5:17
Melbourne 5:11 Moscow 7:56 London 8:11
Atlanta 8:07 Toronto 8:08
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The difference between perseverance and obstinacy:
one comes from a strong will
and the other from a strong won't.
-- Henry Ward Beecher
Aish Young Professional Mission to Israel
June 18th -28th
Call Rabbi Mark Spiro