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Weekly Newsletter Message

Becoming an Optimist

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Unlike Bart Simpson, Jews always give thanks.  

Life is a mixed bag. No life is perfect and no life is all bad, but naturally we focus on the bad, we are hardwired to obsess over what is wrong with our lives rather than what is right, and as a result we are unhappy with our lot.  And no matter how much our lot improves, we are still unhappy because if we are not happy with what we have, we will not be happy with what we get.

The solution is to give thanks.

Recently science has discovered that the brain is malleable and through repeated behaviors we can actually rewire our brain. By giving thanks for the good in our lives we can actually train our brain to focus on the positive.

This is the secret of the Thanksgiving sacrifice that we read about in this week’s Parsha. This sacrifice is the origin of the “Gomel” blessing. After surviving a dangerous situation, one recites a blessing thanking G-d "Who bestows good things on the unworthy".  

We often take life for granted, however after a “close call” we are reminded that life itself is a gift. And by actively thanking G-d for life itself we train ourselves to appreciate the myriads of small blessings in our lives.

The “Gomel” blessing serves as a reminder; If you are alive, you have what it is to be thankful for, how much more so if your basic necessities and beyond are met.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

Stephen Hawkings – A Man of Great Faith

Renowned physicist Stephen Hawkings passed away on Wednesday.

Hawkings taught us faith.  

Yes, I know he referred to himself as an atheist, however, while he did not believe in G-d, he did believe in G-d’s creation.

Hawkings believed in the beauty, depth and grandeur of G-d's universe, as he once shared “We have this one life to appreciate the grand design of the universe and for that, I am extremely grateful.” 

More significantly, Hawkings believed in the human spirit. When he was 21 years old he was diagnosed with ALS and told that he had two years to live, but he believed in himself and what he could still accomplish despite his disability, as he shared in an interview with the NY Times “My advice to other disabled people would be……. Don't be disabled in spirit, as well as physically.”

In an interview with Diane Sawyer, he summarized his view on life: “One, remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Two, never give up work. Work gives you meaning and purpose and life is empty without it. Three, if you are lucky enough to find love, remember it is there and don't throw it away.” Hawkings believed in our ability to love, to live with meaning, and to reach higher.

The Torah uses 34 verses to tell us about G-d’s creation of the entire universe, yet spends a whopping 500-600 verses telling us about the construction of the tabernacle, the portable “home for G-d”, that mankind created. It’s as if G-d is saying “Look what mankind is capable of doing”. Instead of pointing at Himself saying “look what I can do” He points to us and says “look at what you can do!”  

Some people believe in G-d’s greatness but not man’s, Hawkings was the opposite. As Jews we are called on to believe in both.

Shabbat Shalom 

Rabbi Benjy Silverman 

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