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Monthly Archives

November 2014

Jewishly Proud

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After 2,000 years of anti-Semitism, discrimination and persecution, we have suffered our share of abuse. How can we heal? The greatest casualty of abuse is pride and self-worth. And we struggle with that, as a People. Like the old joke about two Jews facing the firing squad, and as commands are shouted out, “Ready, aim..” one of the Jews cries out, “Shema Yisrael!!” The other Jew hisses, “Be quiet, you want to get us in trouble?!” Indeed, we have a chronic, desperate need for approval, for love and popularity with non-Jews. And that’s a symptom of severely damaged pride. With the Six-Day War, Jews had a chance to stand up straight and be proud. Suddenly, Jews felt pride they hadn’t felt in a long, long time. But still, it was pride despite our Judaism, not pride in our Judaism. We were proud of our military prowess. In fact, for a lot of Jews the feeling was, “We might be Jews, but we are tough!” In other words, we might be Jewish, but in a big way we are just like everyone else. So the pride was despite our identity, not because of it. And that is not a complete healing from the abuse. The same can be said for the great pride Jews take in celebrity Jewish men and women, stars in the fields of science, medicine, music, film, sports etc. We take pride in the fact that so many non-Jews admire a Jew. Once again, the pride is despite ourselves, not of ourselves. True pride is when we are proud of ourselves, our Jewish identities. When we are proud of our Jewishness, Jewish traditions, holidays, sages, spirituality, Torah, the Mitzvahs – that is Jewish pride. That is Jews being proud of being Jewish, proud of who we are and proud of that which sets apart and makes us unique, not that which makes us just like everyone else. The Rebbe’s desire for Jews to celebrate their faith in public has gone a long way to healing the abuse. The Mitzvah “tanks” where men wrap Tefillin in public and the giant Chanukah Menorahs and other campaigns with the same design, these have taught us to celebrate our selves, not our acceptance or recognition by others. That is called pride. 2,000 years later, the true healing is well underway.

Getting Closer

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Getting closer to someone is risky business. In particular, there are two pitfalls to look out for.
  1. Does the other party want you any closer? If the answer is no, and you try anyway, you’re not a friend, you’re not getting closer, and you’re probably headed for criminal charges.
  2. Is there anywhere closer to get? Or are you perhaps already as close you can get?
Find out if they want you closer. If the answer is no, give them space and stay where you are. If the answer is yes, find out how you may get closer. One way to get closer to someone – with their permission – is to find something that is closer to them than you are and provide it for them. When you are the source of the fulfillment of truly deep need, you assume the closeness of that need as well. That’s called “getting closer.” Whereas deciding unilaterally on a course for getting closer to them is wrongheaded, ill-advised and selfish. Without knowing what they need, it is indeed impossible. Torah has told us that fulfilling the Mitzahs brings us closer to G-d. But that can only be so because of two critical factors:
  1. He has asked us to do them, thus inviting us to get closer.
  1. The Mitzvahs are all-important to Him, they are His deepest need and desire. Thus when we provide Him with the fulfillment of that need for Mitzvahs, we are as well.
With permission, with guidance and with genuine needs, we can get closer.

Q&A: Omniscience

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CBC asked: “G d is the knower, the object of knowledge, and the knowledge itself. So He knows all, past , future, present. He can’t help but know. And yet we have some limited degree of free will. And yet because He is the knower, of course He knows what we will choose. And we often choose wrongly. It all breaks down for me about here. Is it that G d knows what we will choose and yet hopes he is wrong? It sounds ridiculous.”   Dear CBC, I love a thoughtful question. Thank you. First, G-d’s knowledge extends to all existence, past, present, and future. This is because all existence derives from G-d’s personal attention. Hence if He is constantly creating everything He must also be aware of it. Secondly, past, present and future are all part of what He creates. He is creating the future or has already created the future. Now, if you say that He knows the future, you don’t mean that He ispredicting the future like some soothsayer. Rather, that He knows the future. How can He know the future if it hasn’t happened yet? There is nothing to know! So knowing the future assumes that a future exists, has already happened and that this is something to know. He already knows it. We won’t know until we get there. In other words: He doesn’t know what will happen, He sees the future already ‘happened’. He knows what you will choose only because you have already made your choice. He sees you choosing it and it is your free choice that He is observing – He knows your choice now because you have already chosen – in the future, which is for Him, the same as the past. Your choice, therefore, does not come from His knowledge; His knowledge comes from your choice. Thanks again for the question RMF