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Weekly Newsletter Message

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#MeToo

 "A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved." - Dorothea Brande (1893 - 1948) 

The #MeToo social media campaign has been effective in raising awareness of the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, but is that enough? 

Will the Harvey Weinstein’s of the world change their behavior now that they know how widespread the problem is? 

We’ve identified the problem but what are doing to solve it? 

As with most societal problems, the solution is education.

Tomorrows men are todays boys. 

If we want to have a real impact on sexual harassment then we need to educate our boys. 

So, here’s my response to #MeToo.

#iWillTeachMyBoys

G-d blessed me with nine boys and I will teach them:

#1 That women are not objects, there to satisfy your desires 
#2 That your sexual drive was gifted to you in order to nurture and sustain an intimate and long-lasting relationship with someone you truly love. Don’t cheapen and dilute this powerful gift, channel it. 

Fellow parents; lets do this! Let’s create a safer world for our girls by educating our boys.

#iWillTeachMyBoys

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. Did you rsvp for our 15 year celebration yet? www.chabadrt.org/3816071 

Don't Give Up

Has anything changed since last Rosh Hashanah?

Are you the same person with the same flaws and problems?

Are you losing hope in ever changing?

What about your children? Are you seeing results from all the time you invest in your children?

Consider this …

How long does it take for the giant Chinese Bamboo to grow as tall as a house?

During the first year the tiny plant is watered …

nothing happens.

Another whole year of watering and fertilizing,

And still nothing.

Then in the fifth year it shoots up to the sky.

in six weeks the bamboo grows 90 feet.

So how long does it take for the bamboo to grow so high?

Six weeks?

No, it takes five years.

If the farmer would have given up at any point during those five years, it would have died.

During those five years, hidden from sight, an enormous network of roots was developing to support the bamboos sudden growth.

Growth takes patience and perseverance.

Every drop of water makes a difference.

Every step you take makes an impact

You may not see the change right away, but growth is happening. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Irma

First it was Hurricane Harvey and the terrible flooding, now Hurricane Irma, the largest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic ocean, closely followed Hurricane Jose.

Why is this happening?

It doesn’t really matter.  

“Why?” is a fruitless question.

What matters is how we should respond.

In the book of Psalms, King David laments “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?”

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hersh points out that the Hebrew word used for “why” is “Lamah”. However, the accent, in this case, is on the second syllable not the first. It is not LAmah but laMAH.  LAmah means “why”, but laMAH means “for what”. 

“Why” is a useless question. It does us no good. The important question is “for what” For what did this happen? What is it meant to elicit within us, and how are we meant to respond.

While it is natural for the inquisitive mind to search for explanations and to ask “why” it is actually an unhealthy reaction to challenges or disappointments and suffering.   

The question “why” implies that this shouldn’t have happened, it’s not fair and I deserve better (which is why it demands an explanation). While that may be true, the question itself fosters a mentality of hopelessness, victimhood and passiveness.

When you ask “for what?” You are in control. You are focusing on what YOU CAN DO . When you ask “why?” you are focusing on what happens TO YOU, which is out is out of your control.

Successful people respond to failure by asking “for what” not “why” They focus on finding ways to move forward and grow from the failure or challenge.

So the real question today is “for what?”.  What do these Hurricanes and the resulting devastation demand from me? How can I grow from these terrible challenges?

Each individual must answer this question in their own way depending on their circumstance, however below I share some of my personal thoughts and answers.

           “For what?” To be in touch with our loved ones more often.

            Unfortunately, I’m not very good at keeping in touch with my parents, I should call them more often. However, this past week has changed that. I’ve been calling my parents, who live in Hallandale, every couple of hours to check in, and I look forward to continuing this habit after the storm has passed. (Okay, maybe not every couple of hours but definitely a few times a week)

         “For what?”  To remind us of our vulnerabilities.

        With all our technological advances we have become smug. We no longer need G-d and we no longer need others. Harvey taught us otherwise. After all is said and done, we are still small and powerless and rely on Hashem’s protection and blessings and the help and support of those around us.

      “For what?”  To restore our faith in humanity and America.

         We live in a great country built upon principles of righteousness, kindnes and goodness. Recent events though, have caused many to lose faith in America. Seeing the pictures of hundreds of people waiting in line to volunteer to help Harvey victims and witnessing the outpouring of support and concern from all races, nationalities and religions, should restore our faith in this great country and its future.  True, not all is rosy and we have a lot of work to do, however Harvey has reminded us of what makes this country so great.

"For what” How do you answer this question? Share your answers here

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Hurricane Harvey

Our hearts go out to all those affected by the devastation that Hurricane Harvey brought to the Houston area.

Tomorrow at Shabbat services we will recite a special prayer for the citizens of Texas and I will share my thoughts on the Hurricane and its aftermath but for now I will suffice with these brief words: 

We must offer any and all our assistance, and let us pray together that they find the strength to overcome this very challenging time.

Our role is not to understand the ways of G-d and why He brings such painful events to the world. Rather, our role is to jump into action to offer any help that we can those in harms way.

I'm proud of the fact that once again the Jewish community is on the front lines of the massive hurricane relief efforts.

Please CLICK HERE to make a contribution towards Chabad's Hurricane Harvey relief effort.

To quote the words of Psalm 107, “They cried out to the Lord in their distress and He brought them out from their calamity. He transformed the storm into stillness and the waves were quieted.”
 
Shabbat Shalom 
Rabbi Benjy Silverman

The Secret to Success

 Did you have a successful week?

The secret to success is actually pretty simple. All you need to do is change your definition of success :)

What’s your definition of success? What makes a week a successful week for you?

The book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) asks: “As one came naked from his mother’s womb he will return as he came and will take nothing of his toil with him…so what is the good of his toiling…? (Ecclesiastes 5:14-15)

The Midrash shares Rabbi Meir’s response to Kohelet’s question “When one comes into the world his hands are clenched as if to say: the whole world is mine and I will inherit it.  And when one takes leave of the world his hands are open”

The whole point of life, according to Rabbi Meir, is to go from clenching our fists, grabbing and holding onto whatever we can, to opening our hands and sharing with others.  The purpose of life is not to get but to give, to think about what we are needed for, rather than what we need.

A successful life is one of caring and sharing rather than accumulating and keeping.

If you contributed to the world in some way, if the world is a little bit better off thanks to your life, then you have lived a successful life.

This is the true definition of success.  

The beauty of this definition is that success is now fully in your control. If you define success by how much money you have made or how much pleasure you have had then success is not fully in your control.  However, with Judaism’s definition you can always be successful because there are always opportunities to help others, even if just with a smile and embrace.  You are in the driver’s seat.  

So please indulge me and share your response - Did you have a successful week? And how so? Post your replies here.

 Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

 

Advice Regarding Charlottesville

We are all horrified and pained by the hatred witnessed last Shabbat in Charlottesville.

We must clearly and unequivocally condemn hatred and bigotry.  But are words enough? 

We need progress not only statements. 

I, for one, am not satisfied with only making statements or posting on Facebook. I must do more. 

It’s easy for me to tell others what they should be doing. I have a long list of instructions for Law Enforcement, the White House, and Politicians, but outsourcing is easy and perhaps a cop out. I want to know what I should be doing in response to the hatred, and for that I turn to you. 

I am a big believer in the power of good, as the Rebbe taught  “A little bit of light dispels a great deal of darkness” (like the Derek Black story I wrote about a while back). With this in mind, I'd love to hear your ideas. What are some practical things I can do in response to the darkness and hatred we witnessed in Charlottesville and what are you going to do? Post your ideas and comments here.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

iPhone: Friend or Foe?

The Atlantic published an article this week entitled “Have Cellphones Destroyed a Generation?”  According to the author, rather than leveraging the power of technology, the “new generation” has become enslaved by it.

Some people struggle with their relationship with their phone, others with money and yet others with food, but the solution is always the same:  Don’t confuse the means with the ends.

Take food for example.

In this week’s Torah portion we find the verse “man does not live by bread alone, but rather by, whatever comes forth from the mouth of the Lord does man live”. A commentary on the Parsha shares that  “this verse reminds us that there’s a greater purpose to eating. One must eat to live not live to eat.”

Every diet and weight-loss strategy has its pros and cons, but for any one to really work, you've got to get your mind right. You need to view food as a means to an end, not an end to itself. You have to start seeing food as a source of nutrition and energy. In other words, you eat to live rather than live to eat.

The same holds true for many other aspects of life, including money and technology. What are the means and what are the ends? Do you make money to live or do you live to make money?

The problems begin when the means become more important (to us) than the ends. Think of the dad who gets a job in order to support his family, but then never sees his family, because he’s so consumed by his career.

The secret to not becoming a slave to technology is to have clear priorities.  Actually, it is the secret to successful living in general,  as Steven Covey writes “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”.

The truth is that the challenge of the “new generation” is not the iPhone, but rather a lack of clarity. You can’t keep the main thing the main thing if you have no idea what the main thing is.

On the other hand, if you spend the time to get “the main thing” clear, you will gain a healthy perspective on technology, work and even food. You will see them as a means to an end, and as tools to be leveraged towards achieving your greater goals in life.  When you know why you are alive and what your life stands for you free yourself from the Pharoahs (slave masters) of our time.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Step Up To The Plate

Do we rely too heavily on government to fix our problems?

A functional society is dependent on the individuals within that society.

In this week’s Torah portion, Moses shares his request to enter Israel and G-d’s refusal “L’manchem” - because of you, the Jewish people.

According to the Midrash, had Moses entered the Promised Land, he would have ushered in the Messianic Age. As good as it may sound, it would have defeated the purpose of Creation. G-d designed an imperfect world and invited each of us to help Him complete it. The point of life is for humans to slowly and collectively over generations, transform the world into a home for the Divine. Moses couldn’t do this alone.

Perhaps this is what Moses meant when he said “Lmanchem” because of you, in other words,  for your sake I didn’t enter the land.

The Torah is teaching us that the leader can’t do it alone.

The government can only do so much; it can help create a strong economy with plenty of job opportunities, but that will not be enough if we are dysfunctional as individuals. The individual must step up to the plate to carry the responsibility of the future.

Ultimately, the overall health of society depends far more on who we are as individuals than who we choose as our leaders.

If we really care about the future of our country we must find ways to improve ourselves as individuals and inspire the people around us to do the same.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?

It doesn’t really matter.

What matters is how you choose to tell your story. 

A young girl once wrote to the Rebbe. Her father was encouraging her to attend a new Jewish School that was opening in the area. However, as she explained to the Rebbe, “I do not want to be a guinea pig to be experimented on”. The Rebbe’s response completely changed the girl’s perspective and as a result her experience at the new school. He simply crossed out the words “guinea pig” and wrote in its place, “pioneer.”

The way you tell your story is more important than the story itself.

This explains why Moses, in this week’s Torah portion, recounted the story of the Jews’ prior 39 years in the dessert. Didn’t they already know the story? After all, most of them had lived through it and experienced it first hand.

However, it’s not just about knowing the story but perceiving it the right way. Therefore, Moses shared the entire story in order to frame it in a healthy and positive way.

Julia Brody, a Chabad Hebrew School graduate and friend, recently penned a beautiful article for USA Today College. She wrote how telling her story, and creating a new narrative, helped her heal after her mother’s tragic passing two years ago (read the article here).

You don’t get to choose your story but you can choose how to tell it. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Are You An Extremist?

Extremism is dangerous, which is precisely why we should be extreme.

According to Jewish mystical teachings, everything positive and holy in this world was created with a negative counterpart. And the more positive something is the more negative or dangerous it’s counterpart. 

This is a universal truth that applies to every area of life.

For example, love is great but can easily be destructive when expressed as unrestricted and illicit lust. Self-confidence is wonderful but can easily descend into arrogance. Democracy is so important but can be perverted into “mob rule”.

Extremism is exceptionally dangerous, but precisely because it is so dangerous it must also carry great potential. In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas is described as an extremist, yet he is granted a “peace award” by G-D.

Positive extremism is being extreme in kindness or ethics or truth or loyalty or some other positive virtue. (In his “Letter From Birmingham Jail,” Martin Luther King, Jr. describes himself as a ”positive extremist”)

The solution to the destructive extremism that we are witnessing in our world is not to shun extremism but rather to utilize it for good.

One who drops everything to help a stranger, over and over again, or someone who, on a moments notice, hops on a flight to the other side of the country just to comfort and be with a friend in distress is extreme. Staying true to one’s values despite immense pressure to compromise is extreme. But it’s what the world needs today. 

So get off the fence and do something extreme, something radically good, thereby bringing healing to our aching world.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silvrman

How Do You React to Crisis?

How do you react to crisis?

Do you despair, become bitter and ask why me? Do you stand strong and weather the storm? Or do you see it as an opportunity?

In this week’s Torah portion we find that the very same snake that was the agent of destruction became the agent of healing (see Numbers 21:5–9)

The Hebrew word for crisis is Mashber. However, Mashber also means birthing-stool, because a crisis always carries the potential for re-birth and growth.  

Consider a seed. For a tiny seed to produce a majestic tree it must first rot in the earth.  As long as the seed remains in its shell, it is limited by that shell. It is the rotting that enables it to grow. Life works the same way. When facing a crisis we must remember that the “rotting” provides the opportunity for radical growth.

We all hope to avoid crisis, but when it is forced upon us, those who perceive crisis as an opportunity will be better positioned to act on it.

Just as in the micro so too in the macro. These days the world seems to be in a perpetual state of crisis. It is painful, confusing and dangerous, however the greater the crisis, the greater the opportunity.  Our responsibility is not merely to manage the crises but to find creative ways to transform them into opportunities.

May we merit that the crises that we are experiencing in the world today become the catalyst to a new world order of peace and prosperity.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Derek Black's Story

“You don’t drive away darkness with a stick” - “A little light dispels a lot of darkness.” – Chasidic sayings

In the opening of this weeks Torah portion, Abraham encounters three individuals whom he presumes to be idolaters. As far as he knows, they diametrically oppose everything he stands for, and yet, how does he react? He invites them into his tent for lunch. He doesn’t yell, attack or protest their existence or views.  He doesn’t chase away the darkness with sticks, instead he lights a candle.

Sounds like the story of Matthew Stevenson and Derek Black.

Have you ever heard of Derek Black? His story blew me away!

Derek Black was a leader of the White Nationalist movement. His father is Don Black, a former KKK grand wizard who founded and runs Stormfront, the biggest racial hate site. His mother, Chloe, was previously married to former KKK leader David Duke, who happens to be Derek’s Godfather.

Derek was the future of the White Nationalist movement until 2013, when he suddenly and inexplicably renounced his racism and anti-Semitism, disassociated from white nationalism and supremacism, and apologized for the damage he had done.

His apology letter to the Southern Poverty Law Center was widely reported on at the time, but it was anyone’s guess as to his motivation. This was a real pity, because if we knew what inspired Derek change of heart, perhaps we could use it as a template to change others who are so full of hate.

Well, a few weeks ago, an investigative reporter for the Washington Post decided to find out.

And it turns out that the catalyst for Derek’s change was an invitation to Shabbat dinner!

Here’s the story: when students at New College in Florida found out that they had a leader of the White Nationalist movement in their midst, they were appalled. There were protests, calls for his expulsion from the school, and verbal abuse. Lot’s of sticks swiping at the darkness.

At the time of his original announcement in 2013, Derek said,, “It’s important to point out that the so-called activists who never spoke to me personally but chose to denounce me publicly, intimidate my friends, or otherwise try to peer pressure [me] did not have a positive impact...not to say that I don’t think those who felt marginalized or uncomfortable with me did not have the right to express their negative emotions – but these expressions did not act as catalysts or contribute to my changing mindset.”

But one New College student did make an impact.

Abraham’s descendant, Matthew Stevenson, decided to light a candle and reached out to Derek, inviting him to Shabbat dinner. Derek, who was being shunned by everyone at New College, decided to accept the invitation and went back week after week. For the first time in his life he was faced with diversity. Lively, but warm and eye-opening debates ensued and gradually Derek broke free of the prison of his own mindset.

A little light dispels a lot of darkness

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

If You Think Trump is Bad

“One good deed is worth a thousand sighs” – Chasidic Saying

To those who supported Trump, congratulations. You can stop reading now. The rest of this email is not for you :)

However, for  those completely devastated by the election results. For those who are  depressed, unable to move on, fearful that we have entered a very dark chapter in our history, consider the following.

This week we read the Torah portion of Lech-Lecha, in which we are introduced to Abraham. 

Abraham lived during very dark times.  The “President” at the time was a fellow named Nimrod.

If you think Trump is bad, you’ve never met Nimrod.

He was about as depraved as one can be. “Might makes right” was his entire Weltanschauung.

Yet, Abraham didn’t mope, he didn’t walk around depressed, announcing that the world is coming to end.

Instead, he stood up and took action. He taught, inspired and led by example. He spread his values of morality, charity, equality, compassion and kindness.   

Abraham didn’t yell at the darkness, he lit a candle.  The darkness actually motivated him.  He saw it as a call to action.  

If you feel the situation is dire, then it is selfish to sit around and mope.  Get up and do something. This is your call to action.

Jews are galvanized by darkness, not terrified by it.

Like Abraham your ancestor, share your values.   Not your politics, but rather your values.  Your politics will convince no-one,  your values will inspire everyone.

What is at the core of your politics? What values drive your vote?  Equality? Respect for every human being? Freedom? Tolerance? A responsibility to help the underprivileged?  

Whatever it may be, share those values. Teach, inspire, and most importantly, lead by example. Treat everyone you encounter with full respect, including  complete strangers, your next-door neighbor who irks you,  and yes, even the Trump supporter.  Go out of your way to help the underprivileged, not only the homeless or minorities, but also the guy at work who may be lower on the totem pole.

Don’t yell at the darkness light a candle.

Abraham lit a candle and changed the world forever . You can do the same.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

P.S.  The following videos and articles may help put things in perspective, although I do not personally vouch for any of them. 

-       A 30 minute in depth approach - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9YV6PhzgjSs

-       A quick somewhat humorous approach -https://www.facebook.com/crazyrussiandad/videos/1588569608118897/

-       A

short article

that someone sent me

 

Little Things Matter

Do I truly matter? Do my actions really make any difference? Will the world really fall apart if I tell a little lie or commit some other “sin”? 

 
Mr. Anthony Weiner probably didn’t think so when he sent some text messages to a fifteen year old.
 
Yet, his actions are now having a major impact on the elections and may actually determine the next President of the most the powerful country on earth!
 
For the better or worse our actions do make a difference. Every word, thought, and action can have a tremendous impact. 
 
As Maimonides writes, “a Jew must view himself and the entire world as equally balanced between good and evil, one good deed can tip the scale to the good and bring healing to the entire world….”
 
Often we don’t get to see the consequences of our actions, but rest assured that every action creates a ripple effect.
 
 

As a matter of fact, every major event in history can be traced back to a single action performed by a single individual. Like Mohammed Bouazizi who set himself on fire instigating the Arab Spring or Eddie Jacobson, the haberdasher, who convinced President Truman to meet with Chaim Weizmann inspiring America’s recognition of the State of Israel.

 
Remember, G-d does big things with our small deeds. Moses had a stick, David a sling and Samson a jawbone.
 
Had Mr. Weiner been aware of the far-reaching ramifications of his actions he may very well have found the moral courage to refrain from indulging in his vices.
 
The awareness of the far-reaching consequences of every one of our actions can serve as a tremendous source of inspiration and motivation.
 
Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjy Silverman

What’s Your Destination?

Traveling through life reacting to needs, wants and situations as they arise is like following your GPS without entering a destination first.

If you don’t know where you want to be, you’ll never get there, no matter how fast you run. Or as someone once lamented “I spent my entire life climbing the ladder of success, only to realize, when I got to the top, that the ladder was leaning against the wrong wall”

The other day my kids went to one of these Escape rooms. (Groups of people pay money to be trapped in a room, slapped with a time limit, and challenged to find their way out by solving a series of puzzles as a team.) They were given one hour to complete their mission. When they finally made it out they shared how nothing could be taken for granted in the room. Even the most insignificant details contained a clue. Every item, everything they saw or heard, had the potential to bring them closer to fulfilling their mission.

What a great lesson in life. Each of us is sent into this world with a mission, and when our lives are imbued with a clear sense of this mission, even the most insignificant details become valuable opportunities.

But what is the destination? How does one determine his or her mission? For this we have Torah. Science tells you how things are. Religion tells you why they are. 

Now, as we begin the Torah cycle again and come away from a month of inspiring holidays, is the perfect opportunity to take the time to discover and internalize our mission.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

P.S.  Need help discovering your mission?  Consider coming to the first lesson of the new JLI course - How Success Thinks. The first lesson is titled DEFINING YOUR SUCCESS (AND NOT ANYBODY ELSE’S). For more information visit www.chabadrt.org/3409071

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