Weekly Newsletter Message

Nikolas Cruz and My Grandmother

How do you respond to pain and suffering?

Nicholas Cruz had a troubled and challenging childhood.

So did my grandmother.

She had a terrible childhood, she’s a holocaust survivor.

Some people respond to pain by becoming cold hearted and cynical, while others become more sensitized to the pain of others.

Some try to lessen their pain by inflicting it upon another, while others do so by lessening it for another.

Some victims try to regain a sense of control and power by controlling and abusing others, while others do so by taking control of their own lives.

When wronged by “society”, some attempt to harm society in revenge, while others try to fix and improve society.

Cruz responded to his pain by killing 17 young and innocent souls. My grandmother responded to her pain by bringing 10 beautiful souls into this world and showering them with love.  

Rather than dedicating their lives to revenge and hate, holocaust survivors built homes and families and raised up the next generation to be strong, proud citizens of their country. They built the nation of Israel, and they built communities in America.

This week’s Torah begins with the words: “Command the Israelites to bring you clear olive oil, crushed for the light, so that the lamp may always burn” The sages drew a comparison between the olive and the Jewish people. “Rabbi Joshua ben Levi asked, why is Israel compared to an olive? Just as the olive only yields its oil by being crushed so Israel fulfills [its full potential] only when it is pressed by suffering.”

There’s a great parable that has been circulating for a while:

Once upon a time a daughter complained to her father that her life was miserable and that she didn't know how she was going to make it. She was tired of fighting and struggling all the time. It seemed just as one problem was solved, another one soon followed.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Once the three pots began to boil, he placed potatoes in one pot, eggs in the second pot, and ground coffee beans in the third pot.

After twenty minutes he took the potatoes out of the pot and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl.

He then ladled the coffee out and placed it in a cup. Turning to her he asked. "Daughter, what do you see?"

"Potatoes, eggs, and coffee," she hastily replied.

"Look closer," he said, "and touch the potatoes." She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. Its rich aroma brought a smile to her face.

"Father, what does this mean?" she asked.

He then explained that the potatoes, the eggs and coffee beans had each faced the same adversity– the boiling water.

However, each one reacted differently.

The potato went in strong, hard, and unrelenting, but in boiling water, it became soft and weak.

The egg was fragile, with the thin outer shell protecting its liquid interior until it was put in the boiling water. Then the inside of the egg became hard.

However, the ground coffee beans were unique. After they were exposed to the boiling water, they released their fragrance and flavor and changed the water.

"Which are you," he asked his daughter. "When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a potato, an egg, or a coffee bean? "

We do our best to avoid adversity and suffering, but when it happens we must rise to occasion and become better people as a result.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 




Letters of Love

Our community joins a nation in shock to express our deepest condolences and sympathies to the many people whose lives will never be the same after the school shooting in Parkland, Fl. We cry for them and we cry for our country. This tragedy has shaken us to the core. It has touched a very deep place in each one of us.

After the tragic deaths of the two sons of Ahron, the Torah says “and Ahron was silent”. Silent because no words can possibly express the deep pain and anguish, and silent because words are cheap. It is a time for action not words.

The Torah reminds us that we must respond to tragedy with action. Each of us must do our part, no matter how small it may seem, to ensure that this does not happen again, and to comfort and support the families affected.

With this in mind we invite you  to join our   “Letters of Love" campaign.

We are collecting letters of love, support and Mitzvot for the family of Alyssa Alhadeff, a Chabad Hebrew School alum, who was tragically killed in  the shooting. Please include Mitzvot that your family will do in Alyssa’s memory thereby bringing more “light” and goodness into this dark world.  

I will be forwarding the messages to the family on February 22nd. Letters can be mailed to Chabad , 303 Broadway in Dobbs Ferry or emailed to [email protected] Please write “letters of love” in the subject line.

It is a small, yet practical act, that I’m sure the Alhadeff family will appreciate.

May we only have Simchas to share with one another from now on.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

Midlife Crisis

A 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, wrote that "life swings like a pendulum between boredom and pain" What he meant was that if we have achieved our goals in life, then we are in a state of boredom. If we have not achieved our goals, then we are in a state of pain (or frustration).

This pretty much sums up what many face during a midlife crisis.  Those who have gotten where they want to be in life are asking themselves: now what? Those who haven’t gotten there, don’t see themselves ever getting there.

This happens because our goals are binary.  Either we've succeeded and are bored, or we have not, and are in pain. 

This is the challenge of fixed goals. Getting married, moving to the suburbs, raising a family and achieving a certain level of professional success are all examples of fixed goals.  Either you succeed or you don't. 

Judaism, on the other hand, introduces us to limitless goals. Limitless goals focus on the process more than the result, on the how more than the what.   How you make your money, is more important than how much money you make. 

Judaism values the effort, integrity, and kindness one puts into to each moment and each encounter, regardless of results. 

In this mindset, every day can be a success but you never "get there", you are never actually done.

In this week’s portion, we read about the giving of the Torah.  Imagine how anti-climactic this must have been. After waiting and suffering for 210 years as slaves in Egypt, they reached the apex of spiritual life and experienced G-d at Mt Sinai. Now what? What else can they possibly accomplish?  Yet, shortly after receiving the Torah, G-d says "enough sitting around the mountain, travel forward" Each day presents us with new mountains to climb and new opportunities to better ourselves and the world.

The Torah portion challenges us to re-examine our goals. Are all our goals binary, or do we also have limitless goals? Valuing process over results lowers our risk of suffering a midlife crisis.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman

PS. Join us for First Friday services tonight at 6:30 pm 

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