49 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

UN Resolution 2334: The Height of Hypocrisy vs. the Light of Truth

UN 2334
On the eve of Chanuka, the UN passed the Obama-initiated Resolution 2334 that delegitimizes Israel's ownership of the Western Wall remnant of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, our patriarch's and matriarch's graves in Maarat Machpela in Hevron, Joseph's gravesite in Shechem, the site of our Holy Tabernacle in Shiloh and all Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel beyond the pre-1967 borders.

Everything Hashem does turns out for the very best. Ever since Resolution 2334 passed, it has not stopped raining in Israel after a long and difficult drought.

Since the dawn of our people's history, we've suffered from two types of enemies - the tyrants from the outside and the self-deprecating segment of our population from within. Chanuka teaches that miraculously, we always overcome both. This time is no exception.

I want to add one thing: how the USA refused to veto a resolution whose preamble states the unacceptability of acquiring territory by force is an insult to the intelligence of any normal human being. In case anyone has forgotten, our Holy Land's borders and the Almighty's granting of it to us are clearly stated in the Torah. Not so is the case of the entire USA. In 1967 (what a coincidence, huh? No, it's Hashem laughing ahead of time), William C. Sturtevant of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC drew a map (below - click on it to see it in enlarged size) showing how the entire USA belongs to the Native American Tribes, who were brutally and mercilessly forced out of their tribal lands. According to 2334, all of today's USA is one big illegal settlement. Oh, and in case you didn't know, the White House is built on land forcibly taken from the Powhatan Native Americans. See Sturtevant's map below and have a continued Happy Chanuka basking in the lights of truth.

  Smithsonian Map Native American tribes USA

Mattatyahu's Courage

Kever Mattatyahu
Image above: the holy gravesite of Mattatyahu son of Yochanan, the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol), father and spiritual leader of the Maccabees

Happy Chanuka!

Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka, is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.

Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.

Where did he get his strength and courage from?

Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.

Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, Yochanan and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute it with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.

Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.

21" biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.

If the Prime Minister of Israel would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would sway him a single millimeter. If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress. If a man would be honest with himself, he'd realize how contemptable it would be to sacrifice one's entire family for a few moments of illicit thrills.

Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.

While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it. All we need is emuna. Happy Chanuka!

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Turkey Holiday
Thanksgiving is a special American holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It commemorates the first Pilgrim corn harvest in 1621, the year after the Mayflower arrived in North America.

I wonder how many Americans are really familiar with the history of Thanksgiving. In effect, every single American owes thanks to a Native North American by the name of Squanto.
Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London, eventually managed to return to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto greeted the arriving Pilgrims, many of whom were devastated by malnutrition and illness, and taught them - from the goodness of his heart - how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribeled by Chief Metacomet, also known as King Philip, who did much in helping the strangers from England adapt to North American life.
The increasing numbers of Pilgrims responded to the kindness of the Native Americans by forcibly trying to convert them to Christianity. Chief Metacomet bitterly objected to the terrible influence that the new arrivals had on his people, which triggered a bloody war that took the lives of the vast majority of the Wampanoag Indians. Their allies, the Narraganset, were also killed. Those that were not killed in war fled to other tribes. Those who were captured were either exiled or sold into slavery.
Where's the gratitude?
In Judaism, there are two types of commandments - those between man and G-d and those between man and fellow man. The commandments between man and fellow man are very serious, for Hashem will not forgive a human who has done damage to a fellow human until the wrongdoer asks and receives the forgiveness of the victim. Not only that, but as long as a wrongdoer fails to ask forgiveness from the victim, Hashem won't listen to the wrongdoer's prayers, as we learn from the Code of Jewish Law in the laws of Yom Kippur.
Probably the greatest fulfillment of the commandment of loving our  fellow human is to express our gratitude for any favor - big or small - that our fellow human does for us. As much as Judaism honors and cherishes gratitude, it utterly loathes ingratitude.
The lowest form of ingrate is the person who returns an act of kindness with an act of evil. King Solomon says, "He who repays a favor with evil, evil shall never depart from his domain" (Proverbs 17:13).
The evangelistic Pilgrims in 17th Century North America were certainly not the first to return the Wampanoag Indians' kindnesses by killing those who refused to forsake the ways of their ancestors and convert.
Consider these two points that the Torah cites:
Point 1: Lot was Abraham's wayward nephew who preferred a life of lust in Sodom to a life of holiness with his uncle in Hevron. Lot was captured when King Amarphel (Nimrod) and his allies defeated the 5 kings of Sodom. Abraham risked his life to go to war for the sole purpose of freeing his nephew; Hashem gave Abraham success and Lot's life was saved.
Point 2:  But, when Sodom and Amorra were destroyed, Lot was spared by virtue of his uncle.
We see that not once, but twice, Lot was saved in his uncle Abraham's merit.
Yet, how do Lot's offspring, the nations of Ammon and Moav, react to Abraham's offspring? They hire the wicked soothsayer Bilaam to curse the Israelites, hoping that they'll annihilate them in battle.
The Gemara tells that the grandsons of Haman are learning Torah in Bnai Brak. How can that be? Haman tried to wipe us off the map!
Yes, Judaism will accept the offspring of Esau and Amalek as a righteous convert. There are righteous converts in Israel today whose grandparents were officers in Hitler's SS. But, Judaism will not accept the offspring of Ammon and Moav. We don't want any genes of ingratitude mixing into our people.
A Jew's entire being is gratitude. The word for Jew in Hebrew - Yehudi - means one who thanks. From the moment we rise in the morning to the moment we retire at night, we're thanking Hashem. But, we must also remember to appreciate and express our gratitude for the many favors we receive from others, and particularly our parents and our spouse. When a husband and wife are grateful to each other, their marriage is total bliss.
For a Jew, every single day of the year is Thanksgiving.
It's nice to eat turkey, succotash and pumpkin pie once a year. But is the holiday authentic when it's celebrated on the ashes of the native Americans who helped the newcomers survive, only to be repaid by having their blood spilled? Doesn't anyone do any soul-searching? Shouldn't someone ask forgiveness of and recompense the native Americans? How does anyone in the State Department dare criticize the settlements in our holy Land of Israel, built on our Divine-given inheritance from over 3500 years ago? Our sages teach us that people tend to project their own blemishes on others.
Sorry, but my heart goes out to the Indians. Their tribulations are so remindful of ours - persecuted by invading missionaries, exiled from their land, and discriminated in so many ways. Their lot has not been turkey and cranberry sauce, but a trail of tears. Someone ought to apologize to them. Until they do, their spiritual status resembles that of Ammon and Moav. They have long since perished. The Thanksgiving holiday without true and sincere gratitude is nothing but a turkey holiday, pun intended.
This Thanksgiving (once again, every day for a Jew), let's remember to thank Hashem and to thank our fellow human for all the good they do for us. Thank the mailman for delivering the mail; thank your boss for getting your paycheck on time; thank your wife the hundreds of favors she does all day long, and thank your husband for bringing home the bread. Take nothing for granted. Maybe we can't rectify all of society, but we can sure start by rectifying ourselves. Don't be a turkey - say thank you and be sincere about it. And remember, it's good to thank Hashem anytime and anywhere. Enjoy your turkey!
Here's the cherry on the cake: the word in Hebrew for turkey is hodu, which means, "give thanks!"

What Do We Learn from Donald Trump?

What do we learn from President-elect Donald Trump?

King Solomon provides the answer in Ecclesiastes 3:15, check it out; if you don't understand it, I'll explain in today's shiur. But, I'll preface with one important principle: Mr. Trump did not become a billionaire by wasting time and engaging in inconsequential endeavors. Imagine that every second of the day were another $100 bill in our bank account; we'd be making $6000/minute or $360,000 an hour, becoming millionaires in less than three hours. Is our minute as important to us as Mr. Trump's minute is important to him?

Today, we're happy to share with you a hashkafa (Jewish outlook) shiur that I said last week in the Chut Shel Chesed English-speakers' Kollel. Enjoy it:

The Month of Tikkun

Hi! Racheli here. I don't know about you, but I find that this month of Elul is full of tikkunim, or soul corrections. Every day something happens. Yesterday, a tree managed to jump in my way as I was backing into a parking spot. I don't know how it did that. I think it was a suicidal tree. In any case, it broke my rear tail light, and made a nice big dent in the corner of my back bumper. 

Even though my husband wasn't driving, I'm still convinced that it's his fault somehow. The weird thing was that my sensor didn't beep when I was backing up. Usually it beeps to warn me that there's something behind me. But it could be that the tree was off to the side before it decided to jump in my way. The other weird thing is how my car managed to back up onto the sidewalk itself. It's a situation full of mystery.

In any case, my car backed up into a tree. On the sidewalk. Obviously this was a necessary tikkun for something hubby did wrong. You know? I just realized what it was! I now remember having asked him many times to take the baby to school, but he came up with all sorts of lame excuses, like he had to pray and get to work. See? I'm also full of excuses.

I was about to get upset, but as I surveyed the junkmobile, I realized that there were so many dents, scratches, and missing tail light covers, so what was one more dent? Thank God I own the car and I'm not looking to sell it any time soon. At the end of the day, better the car get banged up instead of something worse happening. 

That's how we need to look at everything that goes wrong in life, and especially during the month of Elul. Hashem is doing us great favors by sending us one tikkun after another this month. It means that He wants us to have as much of a clean slate as possible going into Rosh Hashana. If you're experiencing a crazy month of, well, craziness, thank Hashem for it. He obviously loves you very much and is doing everything to insure that you will have a year filled with blessings. Now if a tree happens to jump in front of my car when I'm driving, I'm gonna have to get my eyes checked. Have a great day!

What Wedding?

Happy week, all! It's Racheli, and I hope you enjoyed a relaxing Shabbat, because I sure didn't. All in all, though, it was very nice. We actually spent Shabbat in Jerusalem, celebrating our dear friend's son's first Shabbat as a married man. His son got married earlier in the week, and I actually got to go to the wedding! Well, at least a part of the wedding.

I had planned to bring all five kids with me, because I don't have a regular babysitter that I leave them with. As many of you know, it's not so easy to leave your kids awake and let the sitter put them to sleep. Who knows what time they would actually fall asleep? So, I decided that I would pick the lesser of the two evils and bring the little ones - ages 4 and 2 - with me. Somehow, word got out that I was planning on bringing my little boyfriends to the wedding, and a certain close family member twisted my arm through the phone until I promised that I would leave them at home.

In the end, I did end up leaving them, and I was sure glad that I listened! I got to have real adult conversation, dance, and enjoy the awesome spread of food that could have easily fed a thousand people, instead of chasing two little monkeys around the wedding hall and driving my husband crazy. Anyhow, I managed to drive him crazy, because it's my favorite past time. No matter what the situation, I always find something to annoy him about, and I'm proud that I'm so darned good at it. I'm rambling now, right?

At 11:00, I had scheduled another sitter to come and switch with my first one, who couldn't stay later. And what do you think happened at 11:00? Right! No sitter. Turns out she went to sleep! Can you imagine how mad I was? I was in Jerusalem, having a great time, enjoying being all dressed up and dancing, and my three older ones were having a blast scoring beer and XL energy drinks from the bartender.

In the end, we had to leave during the height of the party. I don't know who was more disappointed. I can tell you who was not disappointed - my darling husband, who was so happy that he would be getting a decent night's sleep. And to make things worse, he kept on chirping, "Hashem is doing this for the best!" So not what I wanted to keep hearing all the way home! Couldn't he just leave me alone with my bad mood?

Well, it turned out he was r-r-r-ight. I hope he doesn't read this. As soon as we got home, both kids woke up. It wasn't from the noise, because we were super quiet when we walked in. I quickly got them back to sleep and that was that. The next morning, I realized that they could have woken up when I was still at the wedding. Wouldn't that have been so much worse? I would have had to rush home totally stressed, knowing that they were crying hysterically because there was a strange girl in the house and I was gone in the middle of the night. Now that I think about it, that's pretty scary for a little kid.

So, Hashem saved me and them the drama and made me come home just at the right time. In this case, my beloved (yuck!) was right - everything Hashem does is for the best, whether we see it or not. If any of you speaks with my husband this week, please don't tell him what I wrote, okay? Have a great week!

Happy Days

Shavua Tov, friends! Racheli here, and I am sooooo excited! Today is the first day of school!!! YES!! While it may be borderline torturous for us to get our kids out the door and into the classroom during the first several days, isn't it truly one of the happiest days of a parent's life? Well, for me it is. Wait - a phrase just popped into my head, and I hope I'm remembering it correctly. I think it goes: the two happiest days of a boat owner's life are the day he buys his boat and the day he sells his boat. Is that right? Here's my version: the two happiest days of a parent's life are the day he becomes a parent and the day he marries his child off. Is that right, too? Shame on me. Seriously.

As I was counting down the minutes on Shabbat to my long-awaited freedom, which I really shouldn't have been doing, I thought about my Summer of Suffering. Granted, it was only three weeks of suffering, as the Charedi school system only has a three week summer vacation. I don't know about you, but that right there is enough of a reason for me to be Charedi. Why do kids need two months off from school? So they can drive their parents insane? So here was my flash of insight: all suffering comes to an end.

Just like all good things come to an end (I'm full of outdated phrases today, no?) so, too, all bad things must come to an end. Nobody suffers forever - not in this world and not in the next world. Of course, during such trying times, we feel like time has stopped, or at least gone on vacation to Tahiti. Why did Time not take us with him? Don't we also deserve a vacation, especially since we're going through such difficulties? 

Here are two points to remember if you're going through some major, heavy-duty suffering: 1) every moment of pain is a spiritual atonement and soul correction. If we could see how much our suffering cleans us up, we'd welcome it with a "Bring it on!" 2) talk to Hashem! Were any of you stubborn children that didn't listen to your parents the first time they told you to do something, so they had to yell at you or shake you by your shoulders? Maybe they had to punish you in order to get the message across? That's called tough love, and sometimes Hashem has to use the same tactics. Do a soul accounting and figure out what you're doing that's detrimental to your spiritual well-being. And please don't tell me that you're not doing anything wrong.

Reincarnation is one of the foundations of Judaism; as such, we have to look at each life like it's a chapter in our book of lifetimes. We don't know how everything fits together. But we have to believe that there is a bigger picture. Watch Rav Brody's awesome emuna lesson, Life After Death. It'll help you put everything you're going through in a different perspective.

Wishing you a wonderful week!