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Weekly Newsletter Message

Weekly Newsletter Message

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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

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

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