Weekly Newsletter Message

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

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