Weekly Newsletter Message

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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