Weekly Newsletter Message

Does Your Calendar Reflect Your True Priorities?

Most mistakes in life stem from our failure to see the big picture.  We get carried away with the immediate and fleeting opportunity in front of our eyes, sacrificing something more important in the future. 

The Talmud states “Who is a wise man?” One who sees what will be born.” (Tamid 32a)

True wisdom, according to our Sages, is the ability to recognize the long-term consequences of our actions.  The wise man sees beyond the here and now, he sees the BIG picture.

This is why we leave our homes on Sukkot and live in a Sukkah, a temporary hut, for 8 days. This helps us reorient our priorities. Sometimes we get a bit carried away with the physical trappings of life. Entering the Sukkah and spending time there with our family and friends, while celebrating the holidays and connecting with Hashem, reminds us of what’s really important in life.  

The sukkah reminds us that life is transient and temporary, and therefore it’s not the “STUFF” that matters. 

They tell the story of the man who came to heaven holding a suitcase. 

The Angels asked, “What are you carrying?” He says “Can’t I bring my stuff?” They say, “that stays down on earth” 

So he says “Can I bring my body” ‘No, that gets buried” 

Finally he says “So what can I bring?”

To which the Angels answer “the only thing you can bring here are your choices”

Sukkot inspires us to ask ourselves, “What’s going to really count in the end?”.  Are we seeing the bigger picture?  Are we spending too much time and energy pursuing things that won’t matter in the long run anyway? Does our calendar reflect our true priorities? 

As wise people let's make sure that our actions are aligned with what’s really important in life!  

Is Your Life Easy?

Unrealistic expectations will most often lead to disappointment.

Once an individual was complaining to the Lubavitcher Rebbe about all the struggles and difficulties he was facing. The Rebbe responded to him: “Since when have you signed a contract with G-d that life would be easy?” Life isn’t meant to be easy. We are on an important Divine mission and part of that mission is to deal with these challenges and difficulties.

Earlier this week Ari Fuld, 45, was stabbed in the back. The terrorist attack took place Sunday morning at an Israeli mall in the West Bank. Amazingly, only after chasing down his attacker, shooting, and disabling him, did Ari succumb to his wound and later died in the hospital. At his funeral, his daughter, Tamar, 22, stood up to say goodbye to her dad. “One sentence my father always told me, that has stuck with me forever: ‘If life is easy, you are living it wrong.’  Life is meant to be a daily challenge. That is what I am doing now, it will be hard, I am sure, but at least I know I am doing something right.”

When we expect life to be easy, we are quickly frustrated when things don’t go our way. However, when we remember that our challenges are an important part of our purpose in life, we see them as opportunities to further our critical mission and are not as easily thrown off by them. The next time you face a difficulty, remember that this difficulty – and the way you respond to it – is a part of why you are here. It is not stopping you from fulfilling your mission - rather, it is your mission; it is not getting in your way, it is your way.

As Rabbi Lord Jonathan Saks recently wrote; “Life may be hard, but it can still be sweet. Jews have never needed wealth to be rich, or power to be strong. To be a Jew is to live for the simple things: love, family, community. Life is sweet when touched by the Divine."

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman



What's Wrong with the World?

On Yom Kippur we take the initiative to evaluate our lives and decide what we can, and will, fix. 

Many years ago, there was a famous letter written in response to The Times of London question, “What is wrong with the world today?” Readers submitted essays about the world’s ills, but the best letter of all was also the shortest. It read:

“Dear Sir,

I am.

Yours faithfully, G. K. Chesterton.”

It’s a lot easier to point fingers at others than oneself. “Everyone else needs to change, not me”

What’s wrong with our world? The UN

What’s wrong with my marriage? My spouse of course.

What’s wrong with my job? My boss.

Why are my kids behaving this way? Because they have behavioral issues and they need to change.

While this may all be true, the consequence of this mindset is that we sit and wait for the world and the people around us to change, but they rarely do and neither does our situation.

If you want change in your life, whether in your marriage, at work, with your kids or in any other area of life, then you’ve got to be the one to change because you can’t change anyone else. The only thing you can change is yourself.  YOU need to change what YOU are doing, or HOW you are doing it, if you want to see different results.  

The next time you have a negative experience whether with your spouse, kids, mechanic or boss, even if they are at fault, rather than pointing fingers and blaming, ask yourself “what can I do differently or better next time to change the outcome” This is the only way you and your situation will ever change and improve. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

How satisfied are you with life?

In this week’s Torah portion, Ekev, we find the commandment to recite Birchat Hamazon,  Grace after Meals, “And you will eat and be satisfied, and you shall bless the Lord, your God”. 

While the Torah requires one to bless when satisfied, the Talmud says that one should bless after eating a piece of bread as small as an olive. 

Satisfaction in life is a result of one’s mindset not the size of one’s portion. No matter how large one’s portion, there’s always larger. If one chooses to focus on what is still lacking, they will never find satisfaction, no matter the size of the portion. If on the other hand, one focuses on what they already have, they will always be satisfied, even with just an olive. 

By requiring us to recite the blessing after eating just an olive size portion, the Talmud is reminding us that having more will NOT increase one’s level of satisfaction. If you are not satisfied with a little you will not be satisfied with a lot.  

Our sages taught “Who is rich? He who is happy with his lot”.  Each of us is allotted our unique portion in life in order to fulfill our purpose and maximize our potential. From this perspective we lack absolutely nothing and can find true satisfaction with whatever we have. 

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Would you rather a meaningful life or one of convenience?

A meaningful life is one full of doing good and bringing benefit to those around you at every opportunity, which often is not convenient. Meaning is associated with effort, growth and challenge. The things that are the most difficult in your life—a high-pressure job, raising kids, caring for a loved one—are often the same things that add the most meaning (and long-term happiness)

The more you seek convenience, the more you experience disappointment and frustration because every inconvenience or challenge is an impediment to your vision of an easy life.

On the other hand, if you seek meaning, you won’t be so thrown off by those inconveniences and you can even find a way to add more meaning as a result. That very same inconvenience or challenge can be seen as an opportunity to make yourself a better person and make the world a better place.

Everyone experiences difficulties, but if you seek meaning rather than convenience the disappointment and frustration will be far less.

It’s like going to the gym. If you go to the gym to relax, as if it’s a spa, you will be sorely disappointed, but if you go to the gym to exercise, the work will be just as hard, but the experience totally different.  

During those last few lifts at the gym, when your muscles are burning, if remind yourself why you are there and you will find the strength to push through.

The same is true with life in general. As Jews we have a daily reminder to seek meaning more than convenience.  It’s called Modeh Ani. The Modeh Ani is a one-line prayer recited first thing each morning that serves as a reminder as to why we are here. (see more here)

Try it out. The work will be just as hard but the experience totally different.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Thai Cave Rescue

What an inspiring story!  Divers and rescuers from around the world accomplished (what many referred to as) an impossible rescue.


It is a testament to what mankind is capable of. We can accomplish the impossible.

So why don’t we?

Why is there so much dysfunction all around us? Why is homelessness rampant? Why is our healthcare system broken? Why are there no cures for many diseases?  

It’s not because these problems are too large, but rather because we are caught up in politics and pettiness. If we could get rid of personal agendas and politics we would solve every one of them.

But does it take a crisis to put all agenda's aside? Can we throw away the pettiness on an average day?

This week we read a double Torah portion. The second portion, Masei, reviews the Jews journey through the desert and it’s not a very flattering review. The forty years in the desert were full of dysfunction, complaining and rebelling.

But there was one exception; after the infamous sin of the Golden Calf, G-d said: Let them build something together. Instruct the Jews to build a home (tabernacle) for me. This simple command transformed the Jews. During the whole construction of the tabernacle there were no complaints and no dysfunction. The Jews came together and rose to the occasion.

Building something together enables us to transcend our individuality and the impossible becomes possible. But absent a shared goal we descend into individual pettiness and personal agendas and the possible becomes impossible.

During the Thai cave rescue there was a crisis that brought us together, but we don’t have to wait for an acute crisis to build together. All we need is a vision.

This is true on a personal, national and global level.

On a personal level we'll use the example of a marriage. A marriage with a vision, in which the individuals see themselves as coming together to build something greater than themselves, is a marriage of harmony that transcends personal agendas.

On a national level - the cure to the dysfunction in America today is to clarify our national vision. Do we know what we are building together? Is there clarity in our education system and beyond to what it is we are aiming to build?

When we are busy building something together our political differences complement each other, contributing to the “building project” in their unique way, rather than detracting from one another.

And finally on a global level, working together to “build a home for G-d in this world”, we can accomplish the “impossible” and bring peace, prosperity and harmony to our world.  

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman


The Family Separation Crisis

Jen Adams Beason, a school teacher, recently asked her students to write about an invention they wish had never been created. Their response – The cell-phone. As one second grader wrote “"I don't like the phone because my [parents] are on their phone every day ... I hate my mom's phone and I wish she never had one," Her comment has since gone viral and is all over the media.

Is technology separating us from our loved ones?

Winston Churchill famously said “Never waste a good crisis”

You may be familiar with the Biblical story of Jacob and the Angel. Esav’s guardian Angel attacks Jacob. After an all-night struggle the angel must return to heaven, however, Jacob will not let him go so easily, “Bless me before you go” he says to the Angel. And sure-enough the Angel blesses him by changing his name to Israel.

You would expect Jacob to simply say good riddance! Why would Jacob ask for a blessing from an Angel who fought with him all night?

Jacob did not want to waste a crisis. He refused to move on until he found a way to turn his struggle into a blessing.

(This is the meaning behind the story of the copper snake in this week’s Torah portion. Moses hangs a copper snake on a pole as a source of healing after Jews had been poisoned by snakes. In other words, the curse itself became the source of the blessing).

Our nation had a very difficult week witnessing young children being torn from their parents. It was emotionally painful for all of us.

A crisis of this magnitude must not be wasted!

Now that this practice has ended, we can’t simply move on. We must find a way to transform this crisis into a blessing.

The blessing should not be limited to politics. For those of us who shed a tear for those poor children, this was a personal crisis not just a political one. And as such the blessing must be a personal one, not just a political one.

The greater the crisis, the more deeply it affects you, the more it ought to change you for the better.

Perhaps we can use the emotional pain we experienced watching children being separated from their parents to motivate us to put down our cell-phones and grow closer to the people we love.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman


Anthony Bourdain’s Mistake

Last week our world lost a good man. Anthony Bourdain inspired the world through food and travel. He was loyal, brutally honest, and brought people together through his work. 

In a revealing comment regarding his childhood, Bourdain shared “God was never mentioned -- so I was annoyed by neither religion nor church nor any notions of sin or damnation” 

Bourdain perceived religion to be an annoyance that restricted one’s choices, because of some belief in hell or notions of guilt. 

He felt fortunate to be free from the shackles of religion, able to pursue his hearts every desire.  As Bourdain told a reporter from the New Yorker “"I travel around the world, eat a lot of **** , and basically do whatever the **** I want”.

But he was mistaken.

Following one’s heart indiscriminately is not freedom. Quite the opposite. 

The teachings of Chasidut differentiate between “inner will” and “outer will”.

The “inner will” refers to wants that are inherent, whereas the “outer will” refers to wants that are a reaction to external stimuli. 

When we desire an enticing experience that pleases our senses and draws us in, we are expressing our “outer will” since we are reacting to the outside world.  Your “inner will”, on the other hand, comes from a place deep within you. It's what you really want in life. 

I can’t tell you what your “inner will” is and what you really want in life, that’s up to you to figure out. However, I can tell you, that if it merely feeds the senses, you are probably heading in the wrong direction. 

Since the “outer will” is often “louder” than the subtler “inner will”, we spend our days on this never-ending goose chase feeding the “outer will” but are left feeling empty and unfulfilled.  We then double down and feed the “outer will” even more, reasoning that if we are not satisfied, then we must need even more. But we will never truly be satisfied because you can’t satisfy the “inner will” by feeding the “outer will”!  (As Bourdain himself said, “I had had an adventure, tasted forbidden fruit, and everything that followed in my life — the food, the long and often stupid and self-destructive chase for the next thing, whether it was drugs or some other new sensation — would all stem from this moment.")  

It takes discipline to ensure that the “outer will” doesn’t hijack our lives. Often, one must say no to the “outer will” in order to satisfy the "inner will”.  

Bourdain was a good person but he was mistaken in this regard. Religion is not about avoiding hell but actualizing our “inner will” and truest self.  He was a slave not to the “shackles” of religion, but to pleasure, sensation, addiction and the “outer will”. 

Bourdain’s life behooves us to take the time to discover our “inner will” and realign our lives accordingly. 

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. Please join us tomorrow at 12:15 pm for Sparks of Wisdom in honor of the Rebbe's Yahrzeit.  Sparks of Wisdom is a new discussion-based social learning experience that delves into 10 profound ideas handpicked from the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s teachings, each exploring a fresh perspective to an important area of our lives. 

Chabad Rivertowns in the News this week:

The Enterprise  

Are You Looking Out For Yourself?

Ironically, it is not in your best interest to look out for your best interest!

This week’s Torah portion describes Moses as exceedingly humble.

What does it mean to be humble? Did Moses really consider himself inferior or less than others? Did he not appreciate his great talents? Did he not realize that he stood head and shoulders above everyone else?

Humility in Judaism does not mean thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.

Moses was well aware of his greatness but his life was other-centered, not self-centered. His talents were completely directed towards the benefit of the community, not himself. The arrogant person sees only himself, Moses saw past himself. This is true humility.

Why embrace this type of humility?

Because you will be happier.

The less your life is about you the better it Is for you.

 I’ll prove it to you.

The next time you are really upset, go and do a mitzvah. See if you can remain upset during the act. You can’t. It’s impossible.

This is the power of humility. It allows you to see past, or transcend, your limited self and truly connect with the people and world around you. On the other hand, self-centered people see only themselves which leads to loneliness and depression.

How does one attain humility?

It’s actually quite simple.

It’s all about the questions you ask yourself.

Train yourself to ask “What am I giving to this relationship?” rather than “What am I getting out of this relationship?” Instead of always asking “What’s in it for me?” ask “Will this benefit others? When you wake up in the morning ask “What can I give to the world today?” rather than “What can I squeeze out of the world today?”

These simple questions will habituate you to see life through the lens of humility rather than arrogance and lead you to a life of connectedness and happiness.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 


The Royal Wedding

Did you watch the wedding? (not live of course, it was on Shabbat:))

Apparently, we are enamored by the royal family. Millions of well-wishers tuned in to celebrate with Prince Harry and Meghan last week.

It’s not easy being a Royal. There are all sorts of "rules" or protocols to be followed. Constantly in the public eye, every word or action must be fitting for royalty. 

Prince Harry struggled with this for a while, but eventually came to appreciate that being royal is a privilege not a burden. In order to be Royal, one must act royally.

As Jews we can relate, for we are also Royals. As G-d says in the Torah “And you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation”. 

Like the Royals, there’s plenty of protocol, we have many rules (613 to be precise).  And like I once heard from a media personality "Jews are news", we are constantly under public scrutiny and must therefore ensure that every word or action is fitting for the name that we carry as Jews. Finally, like Prince Harry we can choose to see Royal life, and the rules that come along with it, as restrictive or a privilege.

Now, I realize that I may have just offended many of my readers. Most Jews cringe at the notion of being called royalty or the "chosen nation". We find it arrogant and hate-inducing.

Yet, at the same time, we are perfectly comfortable with the Royal family. Not only are we not bothered, we are enamored by them and wish them well. When Prince Harry and Meghan left the Chapel in the Royal carriage, not one of the media commentators recoiled in disgust or referred to them as arrogant. But tell a Jew that he is royalty, and he responds, “no, no, G-d forbid! I’m just like everyone else!”

Perhaps this is because we misunderstand what it means to be royal or the “chosen nation”. 

It doesn't mean you are greater than others, but rather that you have a greater responsibility.

Prince Harry, not by virtue of anything he did, was born to certain parents and as a result represents the Crown and the British people and is called on to behave accordingly. Embracing his role as a Royal is not a sign of arrogance but rather of humility!

A Jew is not better than anyone else. But he is a descendant of Abraham and Sarah, and as a result represents the Jewish people and G-d. We are royal, not because of anything we have done, but simply because of who we were born to. As with Prince Harry, embracing our royalty, by living up to the standards of the Torah and being a “light unto the nations”, stems from humility not arrogance.

The nations of the world will not hate us for behaving in a Royal manner, they actually expect it from us.   They hold us to a higher standard and rightfully so.

Prince Harry matured and now embraces his role as a Royal. It is time for us to do the same!  

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Laurel or Yanny?

How was your day?

How’s your marriage?

What’s your neighbor like?

A few years ago my brother went with a group from his community to visit Israel.  During the trip Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz addressed the group and concluded with these powerful words,  “When you return to America, what you share about Israel says more about you than about Israel.”

Whether you hear Laurel or Yanny has more to do with you than the actual reality. The same is true with life in general.

How you answered the questions above is more a reflection of yourself than the reality.   

We choose which part of reality to focus on.

It is up to us to see, hear and discover the good in on our circumstances and the people around us

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 





Is Your Life Difficult?

Is your life difficult? 

This week’s Torah portion includes the prohibition of giving an indentured servant meaningless tasks. You may have paid a fortune for this individual to serve at your beck and call, however work without purpose is considered an unbearable burden. It doesn’t matter whether the task is difficult or easy, what matters is whether it serves any purpose, because what makes work unbearable is not it’s level of difficulty but it’s lack of meaning.

The same is true with life in general.  What makes a life unbearable is not it’s level of difficulty but it’s lack of meaning.  On the other hand, purpose and meaning can uplift even a difficult life, asVictor Frankl would say “A life with a why can bear any how

We spend a lot of time, energy, and mind space trying to improve our circumstances, but our Torah portion reminds us that we should invest at least as much in finding purpose and infusing every aspect of our lives with meaning.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Forget About Being Right

Why should I give in? I’m right and s/he is wrong! Why should I be the one to apologize?  I did nothing wrong!

Sound familiar?

This is one of the differences between children and adults. Children don’t care about being right as much as adults. Children can get into a fight and yet two minutes later they're playing together happily as if nothing happened.  Adults get into a fight and they can go decades without talking to each other.

Why the difference?

Children would rather be happy than right, whereas adults would rather be right than happy.

An adult can go a lifetime missing out on a relationship with his own sibling or parent only because he insists that he is right and the other party has to change or apologize. Of course, the other party feels the same way and as a result the fight is never resolved.

Children, on the other hand, don't care as much about being right, they'd rather just be happy and enjoy each other. 

All too often we get caught up with being right despite the possible negative repercussions.  This is especially true in adult relationships.

The next time you get into a dispute, stop focusing on who is right and focus on what you need to do to be happier, and your relationships will be a lot better off.

It's more important to do right than to be right.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman


Mazal Tov!

As a fourth generation Englishmen, I called my father to wish him a Mazal Tov on the occasion of the birth of a new royal baby. “There’s just one thing that’s bothering me” I said, “who on earth dresses up like that seven hours after having a baby, with high heels and all!?” (I was referring to the now famous picture of Duchess Kate standing on the front steps of the Hospital shortly after giving birth)

“Well, she’s not just any mother” my father responded “She’s royalty, she represents the crown and the British people! She can’t exactly walk out in pajamas!”

Which got me thinking.

We all have a profound need deep inside of us to feel significant and will do whatever it takes to feel important. Often to our own detriment.

Everyone has their way of feeling significant. Some people work harder, others run for political office, while others turn to crime.

What makes you feel significant in the world? What do you do to feel important?

The problem is that no matter how much we achieve, deep down we still feel insignificant. At the end of the day, we sense that we are nothing more than a speck of dust in this vast universe, and the fact that we have one more zero on our bank statement or 100 or even 100,000 more friends on Facebook does nothing to change that reality.  

No matter how much we try it’s never enough, and as a result we are driven to earn even more money, reach higher office, wield more power, or act even more outlandish (think Hollywood J) all in the hopes of finally feeling significant! It’s never ending.

But Kate Middleton is different. Her significance doesn’t come from herself and her personal achievements, but from what she represents.

As long as we live only for ourselves, we are limited to ourselves, and will never feel significant. It is only once we rise above ourselves by representing something beyond ourselves that we begin to feel truly significant.

The picture of Kate on the hospital steps reminds us that our true significance comes from what we represent not what we accomplish.

The 2004 movie Miracle tells the story of the amazing victory of the US Men’s Hockey team. During one crucial scene, the coach yells at the players “When you pull on that jersey you represent yourself and your teammates. And the name on the front (USA) is far more important than the one on the back (their individual names)”

As long as you are solely focused on the name on the back of the jersey you can never attain true greatness.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

A Guide To Misery

In this weeks Parsha we read about the laws of Tzaraat. Tzaraat (often mistranslated as “leprosy”) is a supra-natural plague, which can afflict people as well as garments or homes. 

When describing the status of a Tzaraat affliction on one’s clothing, the Torah states “Im lo hafach hanegah es eino”, if it has not changed “eino”, then the garment is rendered impure. “Eino” literally means his eye, so the verse can be read as saying that the garment is deemed impure because the individual did not change his “eye”, in other words; his problems stem from his perspective.

Often it is not one’s circumstances that needs changing but rather how one chooses to see those circumstances.

With the above in mind, I share with you a post I shared a few years ago.

A Guide To Misery

It's not easy to be miserable. Hopefully this short guide will help:

1. Feel Entitled.

The universe owes you a better life. Expect attention and respect from others.  Life owes you and you were put here to collect.

2. Focus on Problems.

Keep track and constantly review your problems. Remember you can't move on to anything unless everything is resolved.

3. Magnify.

Its difficult to be miserable when you keep things in perspective.

4. Be Ungrateful.

Discount all the good in your life as a given. Focus on all the ways life disappoints you. In time you'll even the see the bad in the good!

And don't forget, misery loves company, the more you share it with others the more you'll wind up having.

Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

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