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Weekly Newsletter Message

Are you in the dark?

There's a biblical command to proclaim the oneness of G-d every morning by saying the Shema prayer. The question is what constitutes morning? After a short debate the Talmud concludes that the earliest one can say Shema is when it is light enough to “distinguish ones friend at a distance of four cubits” Up until that point it is still considered night.

Perhaps there’s a larger message here.

As long as you don't see your friend you are living in darkness. If you go through your day only thinking and doing for yourself you are still living in darkness. Only when you begin to consider the people around you do you experience light. And you can’t say Shema, or bring G-d into this world, until you take notice of others.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

P.S. Join us for a gourmet Shabbat dinner and great community spirit next Friday (February 5th) RSVP here

 

 

"Naar Zich Nisht"

I find it amazing how our Bubbies’ simple Yiddish sayings contained such depth and wisdom, often expressing an entire Weltanschauung.

Take for example the saying “Nar zich nisht” – don’t fool yourself.

These three Yiddish words capture a crucial life lesson: Even worse than doing the wrong thing is fooling yourself that it is right while you are doing it.

Like so many other of their yiddish  sayings,  this is a deep halachic principle culled from Jewish legal texts that our Bubbies managed to condense into a simple sentence.

The original source of this idea is in Maimonides’ book of Mishneh Torah (Shevitat Yom Tov, Chapter 6:10).  The law is that it is forbidden to cook on the first day of Rosh Hashana for the second day.  However if there are leftovers from food that one cooked for the first he may eat the leftovers on the second day.

Now, if one transgresses and deliberately cooks on the first day for the second day, while he has violated the commandment, he may never the less eat from that food on the second day.  However, if one acts with guile (i.e. He cooks on the first day claiming that it is for the first day but his real intention is for the second day) it is forbidden to eat the so-called “leftovers” on the second day.

So if he does the wrong thing intentionally there’s no consequence but if he acts with guile, if he fools himself, then there is a consequence and the food is forbidden. I.e. worse than doing the wrong thing is fooling yourself that it is right while you are doing it.

Why? Because as long as you admit that you are doing the wrong thing there’s a chance you will improve the next time, but if you are fooling yourself and convinced that you are doing the right thing then you will never improve.

Yes, it’s easier to rationalize our behaviors and way of life, but we will never grow that way.

“Nar Zich Nisht”. If you are dieting and you want to eat that cake, go ahead knock yourself out, but at least be honest with yourself, don’t fool yourself and don’t convince yourself that you are not cheating on your diet. 

This especially important when it comes to our moral and Jewish behavior. No one expects you to be perfect, but don’t fool yourself. Don’t rationalize your behavior. Recognize that you are a work in progress.  It’s a little more difficult and uncomfortable initially but well worth it in the long run.

Shabbat Shalom
Rabbi Benjy Silverman

The Hasidic cure to cancer

Have you heard about the Hasidic way to fight cancer?

It’s called immunotherapy.

Hailed as the biggest breakthrough in cancer treatment since chemotherapy, immunotherapy works by strengthening the body’s immune system rather than directly attacking the cancer cells the way chemotherapy and radiation do.

What a great life lesson:  The best way to get rid of the negative is by strengthening the positive.

To paraphrase the Rebbe – You don’t fight darkness with a stick, you simply light another candle. Or as the Hayom Yom, a book of short daily Hasidic thoughts, declares “We are day workers” our primary job is to bring more light into the world.

This is true in every area of life.

Take education for example. Suppose you are doing homework with your daughter and you notice that her handwriting is horrible. Rather than saying “you really need to work on your handwriting” try “wow I love the way you wrote that letter so neatly” Focus on the  positive, find the one letter that she did write neatly and build on it. This will show your daughter that she actually can write neatly and will encourage her to try harder next time.  The best way to get rid of the negative is by strengthening the positive.

Another example is in relationships. Rather than constantly harping on what’s wrong with your relationship and your spouse, focus on all that’s right in your relationship and everything that you love about your spouse. The best way to get rid of the negative is by strengthening the positive.

This holds true in almost every area of life, from the way we deal with problems in our community or nation to the way we run our business and deal with our employees. We are day workers and our primary responsibility is to introduce light. 

While there are times that, out of necessity, we must deal with darkness and fight the forces of evil (think ISIS), our primary occupation and focus must always be on light, on strengthening and creating more good.  Fighting darkness is not a solution it’s a necessary Band-Aid.  Even when it  comes to ISIS, the long term solution to the spreading of the evil ideology of Radical Islam is to strengthen the positive, the ideals of human dignity, freedom and the value of human life. For darkness can only prosper where there is no light. The best way to get rid of the negative is by strengthening the positive.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. Join us for Shabbat dinner tonight. 5:00 pm services. 5:30 dinner.

Good Riddance 2015?

Good riddance 2015?

The headlines are all wishing good riddance to 2015. Apparently the media have come to the conclusion that our world had a terrible year.

I actually think 2015 was a great year. Perhaps the greatest ever, and in case you missed it here are two pictures that illustrate why I say this.  

436995-paris-summit.jpg

world-leaders-paris-march.jpg 

Of course, there were plenty of horrible things that took place in 2015, but the world has always had its problems. What’s unique about 2015 though is the response to these problems. Take climate change for example, whatever your opinions are regarding this issue, the fact that 195 world leaders gathered together to address the problem and actually came to a tangible conclusion is nothing short of historic.

Similarly, the response to the terror attacks in France conveyed the world’s willingness to work together to address the issues of our times.

Judaism believes that G-d created a perfectly imperfect world. Practically it is imperfect, but it was created with the potential to be perfect, and it is up to us, G-d’s partner in creation, to reveal, cultivate and nurture the perfection. In other words, there’s no problem that doesn’t already have a solution and no crisis that can’t be solved (an important truth to keep in mind in regards to our personal lives), we just have to be willing to address it. So while 2015 saw many challenges, the fact that our world has come together to address them leaves me very encouraged.  Working together we can overcome any challenge the world will ever face.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

 

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