Sometimes things don’t feel right. Anxiety creeps in and we wish for a simpler time, a more balanced time, a more stable time.
A boy from a Chabad school stops a stranger on the streets of Manhattan,
“Excuse me sir, are you Jewish?” the boy asks.
“Would you like to put on Tefillin?”
“Oh,” says the man “I’m really not religious…”
“It’ll only take a minute” the boy says.
“I understand,” says the man “but I’m not religious!”
“Did you know that putting on Tefillin helps people everywhere?” says the boy
“Okay. But I’m not religious!” the man says.
The boy starts rolling up the man’s sleeve. “Say Baruch, Atah…”
The man starts repeating the blessing. “Baruch, Atah, but I’m not religious!”
This story has happened a thousand times and still does all the time.
Clearly they are not communicating. The source of the misunderstanding is that the man thinks that tefillin is a religious thing, therefore it is for Religious people.
The boy was raised with the rebbe’s teachings, that Tefilin is for the Jew. That “religion” has nothing to do with it.
The Rebbe taught that every Jew is a part of God, who wants to be connected to God.
And the fact that this story keeps happening, and ending with the Jewish man putting on the Tefilin and loving it, proves him right. Who needs religion anyway?
This Corona experience has given us time to rethink our approach to dating as a mindset and lifestyle. Now that we’re a safe distance from how life used to be we can be more honest, realistic, and objective about the entire picture of dating in our lives.
There should be no difference in the way you conduct your life today because of the isolation or distancing we are facing. If something is real, if something is true, if something is natural then it should apply under all circumstances. The fact that we’re keeping a distance has a sobering effect.
The first notion we should examine is that somehow dating takes away the feeling of being alone in the world, that somehow that gives you a relationship. We’ve created an alternative to marriage – a semi marriage, a quasi marriage. It turns out that this semi marriage has all the problems of a real marriage and none of its benefits. It produces more anxiety than it resolves and it makes you feel lonelier than if you had nobody. We should be grateful that we cannot date- dating as an artificial lifestyle or alternative to marriage was never a good idea.
The only thing that a man gains from a woman is the completeness of the merging of male and female which happens only in a marriage. The Torah tells us that when God created the first human being, that being, that one person was male and female and that was the perfect model, the perfect standard. To be only male is not enough, and to be only female is not enough – you need to be both. After we were separated by God himself the only way to become male and female is through a permanent bonding, where they literally become one and their identity has merged. “I” becomes “we” – “us”. Any real intimate bonding experience has to be created in heaven. It can’t happen by human effort because it’s a superhuman achievement.
The bond of marriage is created by a humility and vulnerability that is absolutely essential, natural, and true. Vulnerability doesn’t mean vulnerable to hurt – that’s a weakness. Vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness. Healthy vulnerability is the realization that I am not enough, that I cannot be satisfied with myself. To be vulnerable means to be lacking intimacy. Intimacy is the bonding that brings two people together so that they become one. The me is not the enemy, it’s the absence of the other. When you don’t have an other, you’re lacking in intimacy and your vulnerability is painful but it’s a strength not a weakness.
The first vulnerability that every human being should have is with God. The first statement of any religion should be you’re not alone – you have a God, your God, your Creator. When you get married, you reproduce an intimacy with a human being that you already have with God.
We should always try to act that intimacy out, to find another human being with whom we can be one. God gives you love to be able to love others, not to love yourself. Keep a minimum for yourself and give the rest away. You need to be more than you, not more of you. You don’t need to be more of you, you need to have someone else beside you. God will not deprive you of anything you need. He also won’t give you everything you want. It’s a good deal – make that deal with God.
Leave the “me” monster out of the conversation – it’s not about me, it’s about where the me can go to become bigger, to become complete, to become more purposeful. That is the meaning of serving God with joy. Look for something beyond yourself and then people will be attracted to you, you will become a true nurturer, you give off life. This separation we are currently facing can be a great blessing for us. Let it be the turning point in your life where you get past yourself into something bigger, better, richer, and more Godly.
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One of the greatest gifts Judaism has given the world, is the conviction of the sanctity of human life. Before Judaism our ancestors did not treat life with the reverence we do. Many of them sacrificed human beings, even their own family members, to their deities.
Idolatry and Polytheism began with an ideology that is completely understandable. They didn’t actually believe that the sun and the moon were gods, feeling the desire to worship them. They believed that there was one great infinite god who created everything. But they came to the conclusion that the infinite god of the universe is too big and great to concern himself with the tiny mundane details of our world. After all, why would God, in his infinite unfathomable greatness care when the rain falls in a particular area, or whether a crop in the ground will grow? And so, they reasoned that god must have given control of matters insignificant to him, to various mini-gods who will control them.
This makes perfect sense. But god confided in Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He told them how he feels. He told them he is totally invested in this world, that matters of the world are far from insignificant to him. He cares about them with infinite intensity. He created this earth because he needs it, therefore he cares more about this place than we possibly can. No part of this world is too small for him.
God cares about every little plant and animal, but human beings are even more precious to him. God cares deeply about animals, but even the greatest animal is only his creation. We the human beings on the other hand are something more. We are his partners. We are his. We help him make his world into how he needs it. God cares more about people than people ever can.
That is why every single life matters.
And that is why when a black man is murdered, we not only owe his community an apology, we owe god an apology.
And when we on earth value people like god values people, the needless killings will end, and we will be able to say that we’ve brought heaven down to earth.
In the West, including in the United States and Israel, the idea that all people are equal has replaced morality. Equality has become a substitute for morality. If I really believed that somebody was inferior I would abuse them; if I think I’m stronger I’m gonna beat you up. If I think I’m smarter, I’m gonna play games with you. If I think I’m richer then I take all the privileges. I think I’m better, I’m going to be immoral so I better not think I’m better. We must all be equal because if not, why wouldn’t superior people use their advantages to abuse and oppress the inferior? We all must love each other, because if not, why wouldn’t we hurt the people we hate?
Morality, straight from the Torah, says that the rich may not take advantage of the poor, the strong may not beat up the weak – that’s morality. Morality means you have an advantage – don’t use it against others. But to think nobody has an advantage, that we’re all the same and equal, isn’t true and isn’t better than morality.
What’s wrong with knowing that you can hurt somebody but you’re not allowed to?
That’s the difference between socialism and democracy. Socialism says we all have to be equal because if we’re not equal there’s gonna be misbehavior; give everybody exactly the same and nobody will steal because there’ll be nothing to steal. That’s not morality, that’s just moral laziness.
Everyone is entitled to their opinion no matter how hateful and odious, but just because you hate me doesn’t mean you are entitled to hurt me. Morality means: Thou shalt not kill the people you hate.
In today’s world, we have a lifestyle in which we like to upgrade our physical possessions and conditions. We want a new car every couple of years, we want to remodel the house once in a while, we want to get a new wardrobe not because there’s anything wrong with the old one but because you can improve.
Shouldn’t our behavior at home be upgraded from time to time, too? Why shouldn’t our behavior become more beautiful, more elegant, more glamorous? How did we get so careless and inconsiderate with the people who are most important in our lives?
Now is the perfect opportunity. We are home and there is nowhere to go!
There is a famous saying that “familiarity breeds contempt”. While contempt is a harsh word, familiarity can breed ugliness – yet how can couples or families not be familiar? There is familiarity that brings us together and familiarity that destroys positive feelings, if we let it. It all ties back to how we spoke to our parents growing up. Training ourselves to distinguish how we speak to our parents directly translates to how we later speak to our spouse. Sometimes instead of looking for an answer to the big problem, if we simply make the right adjustments it’s all it resolves itself. Because of this, the first place to upgrade our lives is our tone of voice. If the tone becomes more elegant, more dignified, more respectful, it can only help our relationships across the board. Something as small as shifting that can have an amazingly positive effect.
The next place to upgrade is the boundaries of our relationships. If you can sit in your father’s chair the borders of our family have been violated. You shouldn’t roll your eyes at your parents. You shouldn’t talk to your parents or your spouse the same way you talk to others. By making this distinction in how we speak and act, children will again feel like they are the children in the family and the parents will feel like they are the parents in the family. Every relationship is a delicate relationship and has certain conditions under which it thrives. If you don’t provide your relationships with those conditions, all of the advice in the world about how to heal them won’t help.
The final thing to do to upgrade your life is to wait until the next day when you want to criticize your child or spouse. When you prepare, when you think in advance, when you want to tell something to your child or to your spouse but you wait for the right minute, for the right setting, for the right mood and then you say it – it’s always a home run. When we wait to share our feelings with our loved ones, there is more goodness in it. It shows that we took the care and consideration necessary to take our feedback for others seriously. By waiting, what you say will be a compliment instead of a criticism.
We have become accustomed to upgrading our physical surroundings, but the time has come to upgrade our family life with as much care and consideration.
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It was only a few months ago when the idea of social distancing frightened us, and we were certain that it would be a disaster. We now know it wasn’t at all like what we expected – in fact, it
turned out to be quite nice. Children like being home with each other and with their parents. Parents enjoyed having their kids home, having a life together. Couples who were on the
verge of divorce suddenly saw each other differently and were grateful to have each other. If anything, it has been a shock to discover how unnatural our lives had become without even realizing it.
Going forward when quarantine is over completely, do we want to go back to that life? I don’t think so. Even if we wanted to, we shouldn’t – we should not go back to a state of mind we’re getting away from the children is absolutely necessary, where we avoid too much time with your spouse because it’s going to be painful. We shouldn’t want to go back to a toxic work environment and we don’t want to send our children back to the schools the way the schools were.
Instead, let’s think of a better model – a model where we have been freed by this lockdown. We have been liberated from our old habits and liberated from thinking that there is only one way for life to work. We have learned that we can live without all the things we thought we needed. Not
only can we live, we can actually relax. We can enjoy our families. We can even get to know ourselves better. We’re more alive now we discovered where our lives really happen.
You go to work because you need to take care of your family – that’s perfectly moral, noble, and selfless. So how did it happen that this workplace where decent human beings get together to feed their families and to support life became so toxic? The real reason we need to go to work is not because we need to eat – it’s because God wants us to meet people we wouldn’t otherwise meet. Because of our need to work, we venture outside of our bubbles, meet people from other cultures and parts of the world, and learn to help one another.
It would be a noble environment to go to work every morning with the intention of making the world a more livable place; making life more comfortable, more pleasant, more enjoyable for as many people as you can. Every time you meet someone you’ve never met before, it’s not just a new customer or a new a new avenue of business – it’s a new opportunity to do something really kind.
Similarly, the main job of a teacher and of a school is not to fill a kid’s head with information – that’s too mechanical. The main job of a school is to cultivate and stimulate the child’s enjoyment and pleasure in using their mind. As human beings, our greatest gift is our mind and our greatest pleasure is understanding and knowledge. Schools should support that first and foremost.
There’s a lot we can do to make life livable, and the blueprint for a life that’s livable is the Torah. The reason Jews are still here is because we have a lifestyle that is livable. While external forces were enough to destroy the Jewish people forever, our internal health the healthy lifestyle has kept us alive. The core of that lifestyle is that our relationship with God is personal. Jewish life doesn’t happen in a synagogue; it doesn’t happen in public. Jewish life lives in the Jewish home because God looks at us as individuals not as groups.