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Weekly Newsletter Message

Letters of Love

Our community joins a nation in shock to express our deepest condolences and sympathies to the many people whose lives will never be the same after the school shooting in Parkland, Fl. We cry for them and we cry for our country. This tragedy has shaken us to the core. It has touched a very deep place in each one of us.

After the tragic deaths of the two sons of Ahron, the Torah says “and Ahron was silent”. Silent because no words can possibly express the deep pain and anguish, and silent because words are cheap. It is a time for action not words.

The Torah reminds us that we must respond to tragedy with action. Each of us must do our part, no matter how small it may seem, to ensure that this does not happen again, and to comfort and support the families affected.

With this in mind we invite you  to join our   “Letters of Love" campaign.

We are collecting letters of love, support and Mitzvot for the family of Alyssa Alhadeff, a Chabad Hebrew School alum, who was tragically killed in  the shooting. Please include Mitzvot that your family will do in Alyssa’s memory thereby bringing more “light” and goodness into this dark world.  

I will be forwarding the messages to the family on February 22nd. Letters can be mailed to Chabad , 303 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry or emailed to office@chabadrt.org. Please write “letters of love” in the subject line.

It is a small, yet practical act, that I’m sure the Alhadeff family will appreciate.

May we only have Simchas to share with one another from now on.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Midlife Crisis

A 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote that "life swings like a pendulum between boredom and pain" What he meant was that if we have achieved our goals in life, then we are in a state of boredom. If we have not achieved our goals, then we are in a state of pain (or frustration).

This pretty much sums up what many face during a midlife crisis.  Those who have gotten where they want to be in life are asking themselves: now what? Those who haven’t gotten there, don’t see themselves ever getting there.

This happens because our goals are binary.  Either we've succeeded and are bored, or we have not, and are in pain. 

This is the challenge of fixed goals. Getting married, moving to the suburbs, raising a family and achieving a certain level of professional success are all examples of fixed goals.  Either you succeed or you don't. 

Judaism, on the other hand, introduces us to limitless goals. Limitless goals focus on the process more than the result, on the how more than the what.   How you make your money, is more important than how much money you make. 

Judaism values the effort, integrity, and kindness one puts into to each moment and each encounter, regardless of results. 

In this mindset, every day can be a success but you never "get there", you are never actually done.

In this week’s portion, we read about the giving of the Torah.  Imagine how anti-climactic this must have been. After waiting and suffering for 210 years as slaves in Egypt, they reached the apex of spiritual life and experienced G-d at Mt Sinai. Now what? What else can they possibly accomplish?  Yet, shortly after receiving the Torah, G-d says "enough sitting around the mountain, travel forward" Each day presents us with new mountains to climb and new opportunities to better ourselves and the world.

The Torah portion challenges us to re-examine our goals. Are all our goals binary, or do we also have limitless goals? Valuing process over results lowers our risk of suffering a midlife crisis.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. Join us for First Friday services tonight at 6:30 pm 

The Goal of Feminism

What is the goal of feminism?

Is it equality alone?  Or is there also a greater goal?

The Zohar on this weeks Parsha states, regarding the Song of Miriam,  that it is the unique song of the Jewish woman that will bring healing and redemption to the world. (see www.chabadrt.org/2744)

To elucidate, I’d like to share with you Hinda’s speech from Spa for the Soul this past Sunday.

"The future is female!

No, we’re not getting rid of all the men, sorry ladies :)

Maybe I should say, the future is femininity (rather than the future is female) It’s a little more PC :)

Judaism, since its inception, has championed femininity.

There are feminine values and masculine values, and while each has its time and place, and men and women each have the capacity for both, Judaism has always placed feminine values above masculine values.  

Examples of feminine values are empathy, nurturing and patience, whereas assertiveness, courage and competitiveness are examples of masculine values.

Before the Torah was given masculine values were respected, while feminine values rejected.

Great men were those who vanquished their enemy. Forgiveness was seen a weakness and competitiveness and ruthlessness were the hallmarks of society.

But the Torah came along and said “love the stranger, care for the orphan and protect the weak”.

Judaism teaches that peace is greater than war, forgiveness the master of vengeance.

Judaism champions the nurturing, as opposed to the competitive, spirit within us. Essentially, Judaism started a feminine revolution.

And who better positioned to carry out this revolution than the Jewish woman.

Yes, we can be masculine when we need to (we have proven that we can be assertive, independent and courageous) but that’s not our unique message and contribution to the world. The world has had plenty of masculinity, it is time for the feminine voice to be heard!

Expressing our G-d given gift of femininity we can teach the world to be more compassionate and nurturing.

We can teach the world that peace is greater than war, that bravery is found in acts of kindness, that how much our children admire us is far more important than how much our business associates do, that our rank in the Forbes 400 is secondary to where we stand in our relationships, and that to empower others is the greatest form of power.

The future is femininity! It is time for our nurturing feminine spirit to bring healing and redemption to a fractured world. "

Of course the above applies for men as well as women. While there is a time and place for courage, assertiveness, competitiveness and other "masculine values",  we must cultivate our "feminine values" such as empathy, patience and our ability to nurture and love.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

 

Greatness is a Habit

Wouldn’t you love to be a more positive, optimistic and joyful person?

Well you can and all it takes is practice.  

In this week’s Parsha, we read about the first seven plagues. Despite the harshness of these plagues, Pharaoh refuses to let the Jews go because “G-d had hardened his heart”.

But what happened to Pharaoh’s free choice? How could Pharaoh be punished for refusing to comply with G‑d’s demands to grant freedom to the Israelites, if G‑d Himself “hardened his heart”?

Nachmanadies explains that G-d’s hardening Pharaoh’s heart during the last five plagues was a result of Pharoh stubbornly hardening his own heart during the first five plagues.

In other words, Pharaoh had habituated himself to be stubborn and hardhearted. At this point, after years of a hardened heart, it had become his natural disposition, it was no longer his choice.

With today’s understanding of neuroplasticity, this is even easier to understand. Repeated behaviors create new neural pathways that then become natural and automatic. Due to Pharaoh’s decisions and habits he was now hardwired to be hardhearted.

Just as this is the case with bad habits such as stubbornness, so too it is with good habits.

Push yourself to act joyfully or think optimistically often enough and it will become second nature. You literally rewire your brain.

You will be good at what you practice. Practice worrying and you will be the best worrier, practice kindness and you will be the kindest person.

Greatness isn’t a gift, it’s habit 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Are you ready for 2018?

Will 2018 be a good year for our world?

That’s totally up to you.

One of the most revolutionary and empowering ideas Judaism introduced to the world is that history does not unfold randomly and by chance, but rather it is guided or created by our actions. We are not mere spectators, observing history evolve, but rather we are active participants shaping and guiding it.

We don’t witness history, we make history!

The future depends on our actions. How we behave today will define our world tomorrow. And in this regard, it is the small mitzvot that have the greatest effect.

We recently celebrated Chanukah. Many have the custom to place the Menorah at the window in order to bring the light and message of the Menorah to the outside world. Now, if we are trying light up the world, wouldn’t we be better off creating a huge communal bonfire on Main street? Wouldn’t that be more effective than my small flames on my personal Menorah? However, the message of the Menorah is that it is precisely my small personal candles that illuminate the world. It is the small mitzvot that we each do, that determine what our world will look like in 2018 and beyond.

There was once a shipwreck stuck at the bottom of the ocean.  The crew employed a crane to lift the ship – but the crane couldn’t get the ship to move without its chain snapping.

Then one day someone dove into the water and connected one end of a thin cable to the wreckage and the other to a small hot air balloon. Everyone laughed. If the huge crane could not lift the wreckage, there’s no way this little cable could do it! But the diver wasn’t done. He dove down again, tying another cable – and another, and another.  Soon everyone got the point and they all started attaching cables. Sure enough a short while later, with hundreds of little cables attached, the shipwreck slowly rose to the surface.

Looking forward to making 2018 a great year!

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman  

Did you have a bad week?

That’s up to you to decide.

In this week’s Torah portion Joseph finally reveals himself to his brothers and says “"I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that G-d sent me ahead of you. For two years now there has been famine in the land, and for the next five years there will be no plowing and reaping. But G-d sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance. So then, it was not you who sent me here, but G-d."

Joseph could easily have seen himself as victim, sold by his jealous brothers, but instead he chose to see himself as an agent of G-d on an important mission, one with tremendous potential.  By framing events in this way, he freed himself from an emotional prison of anger, resentment, frustration and victimhood.

There is always more than one possible interpretation of what happens to us and we have the ability to choose between the different interpretations.  (According to the most up-to-date scientific research, none of us experience objective or true reality as it is, instead we each create our own version of reality. Our brain interprets reality the way it chooses to.  Watch this TED talk for some examples.)

In the words of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, when facing challenge, ask yourself “What does this bad experience enable me to do that I could not have done otherwise?”

Why choose a negative interpretation when you can choose a positive one?

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

 

 

Why Be Jewish?

“Why Be Jewish?” is a question we only have the luxury of asking today. In the past, the anti-Semite gave the Jew no choice. The Jew was refused entrance to mainstream society.

But today we live in a different world. We are accepted and welcomed and can easily assimilate. For the first time history our children and grandchildren can ask “Why be Jewish?”

Do we know how to answer the question?

The answer of course is Chanukah :)

No, I’m not referring to the Chanukah Gelt and latkes, but rather the message of Chanukah.

Why be Jewish?

Because the world needs you to be Jewish.

Judaism is the most powerful idea that the world has ever seen.  Might does not make right; every individual is created in the image of G‑d, and is therefore unique and valuable; humans are partners with G‑d in creation, with a mission to better the world - These are ideas the world the world urgently needs to hear.

Judaism teaches lessons that the world needs to learn. A family that keeps Shabbat is always reminded of what is really important—that there is more to life than accumulating wealth. The kosher laws teach us that we are not mere animals that must feed our every urge and desire. A mezuzah on the door tells the world that this home is built for a higher purpose.

On Chanukah we light the candles at the window facing the street to remind us that through our personal Judaism we bring light and healing to the entire world.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

More Sexual Assault Allegations!

Are the growing number of sexual assault allegations making you feel "sick"? Are these revelations a sign of the decline and moral decaying of our society? 

There is no question that these revelations are discouraging, however, I actually see them as a healthy sign, not the opposite! 

Think of eczema or other skin rashes. They are unsightly and uncomfortable, however they are actually signs that your body is in a healing phase, which is a good thing. The skin is trying to expel waste, it is rejecting toxins as an attempt to return the body to health. 

For far too long, sexual harassment was ignored and brushed under the carpet.  It was accepted as “part of life”.  Today, we are finally rejecting it. The process is unsightly and uncomfortable, but it’s a sign that we are slowly beginning to heal.  

May we continue on this path to full “global health” until we realize a world in which power is no longer seen as a tool to manipulate and control, but to help and uplift. 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Why is G-d doing this to me?

The story is told of a sculptor who was commissioned to design a bronze statue of a horse for the town square. After many months of work, he produced a sculpture with perfect detail – showing every sinew and hair follicle. It was truly a masterpiece! However, when the statue was proudly placed in the town square, everyone walked by and completely ignored it! The sculptor was very disappointed to find all his hard work going unappreciated. Finally a friend said: "I think the problem is that the horse is so perfect that people think it's real!  But if you would make a crack, then people will notice it as a work of art."

Sometimes it takes a crack to get us to appreciate the art in our lives. Only when something goes wrong do we begin to notice all that was right.  

We kvetch, complain and are miserable when things are not well, but  do we praise, thank and rejoice when they are? 

I often hear the question "Why is G-d doing this to me?" when people are facing challenges, I'm still waiting for someone to ask the same question when  all is well.

Everyday has its blessings, everyday has its good moments. Enjoy them!

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Are you a thermometer or thermostat?

This week’s Parshah opens with the words “And Sarah’s life was one hundred years and twenty years and seven years – the years of the life of Sarah.

Rashi explains that the Torah repeats the words "the years of Sarah's life" to teach us something about the quality of those years. As Rashi says, “All [the years] were equally good.”

Really? All her years were equally good? What about all the years she struggled with infertility? What about the time she was held captive in Pharoh’s palace or the troubles she had with Hagar?

Can we honestly say that she had an easy and good life?

It depends how you define a good life.

There are two kinds of people - thermometer people and thermostat people.

Just like a thermometer reflects the temperature in its environment, some people are reactive, they are influenced by what’s going on around them. So, for them, when they say, “Life is good,” it really means, “I like the way I’m being treated right now.”

Then there are thermostats. Just like a thermostat regulates the temperature in its environment. there are people who are proactive, looking for ways to uplift their environment. … for them  “Life is good” means “I get to do good” not “I am being treated well.”  They’re happy because they get to serve not because they’re getting good service.

Sarah was a thermostat, and as a result all her years were equally good. Regardless of what was happening to her, she reacted with goodness.

If you want to be guaranteed a good life, make sure you’re a thermostat.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

 

IPhone X

Have you ordered your IPhone X yet?

The day has come. We are spending over a thousand dollars on our cellphones! And it’s well worth it. What these little gadgets can do is truly amazing.

We have advanced so much in so many areas of life over the last decades thanks to science and technology.

We now have the answers to so many questions that our parents could never answer, thanks to advances in all fields of knowledge.

However, there is ONE question that still remains unanswered: And it is the most important question of all:

WHY? - The why of Life. Why are we here. What's the purpose of the life we are given.  

As Mark Twain famously said:  “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”

Its important because as Viktor Frankel writes in Man's Search for Meaning: “Those who have a 'why' to life, can bear with almost any 'how'.”

Your IPhone, amazing as it is, cannot answer this one simple question. Nor can science.  Science teaches what our world is, it is Religion that teaches us why it is.

There is only one place to go to discover the “why” of life. The Torah.  Join a Torah class today :)

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

#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
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