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The Wrong Reason To Get Married

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For the last 80 years or so people have decided to marry based on how much they love each other. But there’s a problem with that, because love and marriage do not “go together like a horse and carriage”. It’s not true.

If you’re not in love with marriage, if you’re not enamored with marriage, if you don’t believe in marriage, and you don’t want to be married, then don’t, no matter how much you love someone!

A couple came to me and said “we’re madly in love with each other, so we want to get married.” I said “but then it’s too late!”

The love came before the marriage, and that doesn’t work. You have to be committed to the idea of marriage before getting married.

So, if a man says to a woman, “you know marriage is not my thing. But now that I met you, and you are so fantastic, I’ll marry you!” she should not marry him. Don’t do it. There will be moments where he won’t think you’re that fantastic, so don’t put all the weight of the marriage on you being fantastic.

Marriage has to stand on its own merit.

The Real Miracle of Purim

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The miracle of Purim, being natural and “enclothed” in natural events to the extent that even God’s name is not mentioned in the Megillah, is a turning point in Jewish history. It is where God became real enough that we don’t have to refer to him to know that he’s there. Without even mentioning God’s name, we have a book of Torah: Megilas Esther. It’s one of the books of Torah but it doesn’t have God’s name.

That is a great achievement. God has become so real to us and our relationship has gotten stronger after the destruction of the Temple, not weaker.

On Purim we realize something about our relationship with God and something about ourselves: it’s like if a man was running to get a doctor for his wife because she isn’t feeling well, and when you stop and talk to him he admits that he doesn’t really love her particularly at this moment, and they’re not getting along so well, and yet he’s running to get a doctor. If you question him and say “what’s the hurry? if you don’t love her, take your time!” He would simply say “what’s love got to do with it? my wife needs a doctor!”

Our relationship with God is similar. Sometimes we love him, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes he loves us, and sometimes he doesn’t; like when there was a destruction and he threw us out of the land.

But when he needs me to keep Shabbos or put on Tefilin, we are there for him. Whether we love him or not right now, he’s our God, and if this is what he needs from us, we are there.

When God Is Angry At Us

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Once, I got a call from a man in Israel. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me, but he told me that his twelve-year-old daughter somehow became convinced that God was angry at her. This was causing her great sadness and depression and was ruining her life. Suddenly the man put her on the phone and told me to “just talk to her.”

I didn’t know what to say. “God is angry at you?” I asked.

She said “yes.”

So I said “I’m so jealous! You could do something to get God angry?? How did you become so important? You’re only 12 years old and you can anger the creator of the world! That’s incredible.”

After that conversation, her problem seemed to go away.

The problem is, we got it backwards. If God is angry at us, that is a tremendous compliment! The fact that God cares enough about what we do to be made angry means that we have a connection with the creator of heaven and earth. We matter to him. He needs us.

God wouldn’t get angry at us for not doing something he doesn’t even need. And the fact that he needs us is more meaningful than anger, hate, or even love. It means that we are truly connected.

The Meaning of Physical Attraction

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According to some of these articles about the male-female attraction from a scientific perspective, what attracts a man to a woman is some intuitive feeling that the genes will allow the continuation of the species, or that you will have healthy offspring, and that’s what attracts you to each other. But that is inaccurate, and so impersonal.

That makes an intimate relationship mean nothing more than “I think with you I can have a healthy child.” That is so embarrassing. That’s not human relationships.

A man and a woman are attracted to each other because they can complete each other. A man needs to grow by expanding from his own little world into someone else’s world, into a bigger world, and to a greater world, and a woman needs to grow by being more inclusive, including more of reality, more of the world into her own existence. The man extends his existence and the woman encompasses more into her existence. That’s the difference between male and female. That’s why men say women are alluring, as they drew draw you into their world. And man is aggressive. He wants to extend his existence into other areas and other realities. Now the man wanting to expand or extend his existence finds the welcome that the woman presents very appealing. Its irresistible.

So the attraction really begins, as the Torah says, with the woman’s capacity to absorb or to encompass within herself another human being. Men find that irresistible not because of the children they’re going to create, but because of the bond they are going to create. The man becomes a complete being when he is giving and responding to this feminine welcome, to this to this hospitality, and the woman becomes a fuller and a more complete human being when she has more input into her reality and into her world. That’s why it’s important that a man and a woman, when they get married, become husband and wife. Because that kind of a bond doesn’t happen unless the man becomes a husband and the woman becomes a wife. If they remain men and women then they’re still on the prowl and they’re still looking to become complete. But a husband and a wife have completed each other’s existence and that’s what we mean by “live happily ever after.”

This doesn’t mean there won’t be any problems or arguments. It means you are now complete beings. Now fight your battles, go through your arguments, and put up with each other as best you can, but you’re not seeking anymore. You’re not unfulfilled. Now the problems you have are problems you should have as a man and a woman having problems with each other. These are problems you don’t need and you shouldn’t have.

The real significance of the male-female attraction is the completion, because without each other we are incomplete. We are half beings.

That’s a lot more romantic than “I think we could have healthy children and survive the next ice age.”

Why Do Jews Act So Different?

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Once, a very patriotic guy visited Washington DC for the first time. As he walked by the great national monuments, he was filled with pride and love for the nation. But then suddenly he saw something that was completely out of place: he noticed not far from the White House there was a building that didn’t look like American architecture, and he heard people singing inside, but they weren’t American songs, and they were speaking and it wasn’t English, and weren’t dressed like Americans! The man was very offended. Here, in the nation’s capital, people were celebrating their own nations instead of America! He was filled with rage and decided to give them a piece of him mind.

He knocks on the door and says to the people inside “how long have you been living in the United States?”

They answer: “Thirty years.”

He says “for thirty years you enjoyed all the benefits of this country and you don’t have the decency to speak English, to dress like an American, to sing American songs, to build American structures. shame on you!”

Those inside were confused. One of them looked up at the man and said “excuse me but this is the Norwegian Embassy!”

Their job was to show America how they live, and how they dress, etc. If they dressed like Americans and sang American songs and spoke English, they would lose their jobs!

Every Jew, wherever we are, is an embassy. We are here in this world to show the world how it’s done Jewishly. So if we dress different, if we sing different songs, if we celebrate different holidays, that’s our job! If we stop doing that, we lose our job. So, are we justified in maintaining our customs? Of course we are! We are the embassy.

The greatness of the Rebbe’s achievement was that he raised an entire generation of ordinary, average students, but he raised them with the conviction that they are embassies, that they are not private citizens, and that you don’t live for yourself; you take responsibility for your family, for your community for the world. because we were born to make the world better. That’s our mission, that’s our job, that’s our purpose.

How Can We Believe in An Invisible God?

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How can we believe in a God? Why should we believe that something we can’t see with our own eyes is real?

We all understand that the most meaningful and real things in life are not visible. First of all, intelligence is not visible, emotions are not visible, and even in the physical reality, what you see in an object with the naked eye is not the reality; we know that under a microscope a thing looks very very different. Physics tells us that what we don’t see with our eyes are the building blocks of everything. It’s more real than what we do see. For example, gravity is not visible, and yet gravity is one of the most fundamental laws of nature.

In the course of human development, all real progress has been when we go past what we see and find out what’s really real.

But on a deeper level, the one thing that we know is absolutely real is the human need for meaning in life. We must have meaning in our lives, otherwise we become disillusioned and we break down. But has anyone ever seen “meaning”?

But where does the need for it come from? It’s not philosophical or scholarly; every human being, even if he never opened a book in his life feels a need to have some meaning. But where does that come from?

It must logically come from the existence of meaning. If there never was a meaning to life, then why would we be looking for it? It would be like being homesick without ever having had a home.

We know instinctively that we have a meaning for our lives. The fact that we’re all looking for meaning is not a collective disease or sickness; it’s because life is meaningful. And if life is meaningful, then there’s an author to that meaning. If existence is meaningful, then it must be meaningful to its creator, as that’s just simple logic.


What Happens To The Soul After Death?

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After the soul leaves the body, it enjoys the pleasures of being disembodied and not having to schlep a body around. But the soul leaves the body gradually because during life they become very attached to each other. To some degree the soul never completely gives up on its body, even after the body has decomposed. That’s why going to the gravesite where the body is buried enables us to communicate with the soul better than anywhere else. To some degree the soul is still hung up on its body.

But there’s also the concept of Resurrection. Someday that body will be resurrected and the soul will come back to its body because it never gave up on it. The body that helps you serve God has acquired some holiness that will never be lost and the body deserves a reward just as much as the soul because without a body you can’t do mitzvahs. A soul cannot put on tefillin, a soul cannot eat matzah, a soul cannot light a Shabbos candle or go to the mikveh, so without the body the soul can’t do any of the mitzvahs. Why then should only the soul be rewarded in heaven without the body when the body is more than 60% of the mitzvot? That is why we believe that there will come a time when the body will get its reward by being resurrected and reunited with its soul and live forever.

The pleasure of being a soul is a much greater pleasure than having to carry a body around. But on the other hand, for a soul whose entire existence is to serve its creator, in heaven it’s frustrated it can’t serve God. On earth, we serve God, but in heaven you are served and God gives you the pleasure and the reward for everything. But the soul wants to come back and be needed rather than needy in heaven. In heaven, you’re not needed, you’re rewarded. The souls in heaven are waiting for Mashiach so that they can come back into their bodies.

Heaven is not the ultimate goal in Judaism, it’s a holding pattern until the world becomes a little nicer and a little godlier, the soul will stay in heaven. But as soon as the world is ready, the soul wants to come back live on earth and serve God. Because it has no ego, it doesn’t want to be served. It wants to do the service.


Working Too Hard?

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To work too much is not correct because you have to balance the value and the quality of your existence with the purpose for which it exists. So, if you’re putting in 22 hours a day just for getting your existence comfortable, when are you going to attend to the purpose and the meaning of that existence?

We’ve got to balance our time with getting rich and knowing what to do with it. We’re spending all our time getting rich but where is it going?

A Rabbi once asked one of his congregants,

“do you have time to study?”

He said “no, I have no time to study after work, i have to make a living!”

“Why?” the Rabbi asked.

He said “I work so I can send my kid to yeshiva!”

The Rabbi smiled and said “you know, everyone I asked tells me the same thing, so who is this kid that everyone is trying to send to Yeshiva? and when that kid grows up, is he gonna come and tell me that he’s too busy to study because he has to send his kids to yeshiva?”

The Rabbi’s point was, when are we gonna get to the punchline? If everybody is working full time to make it possible to go to yeshiva, but nobody actually goes, what are we doing it all for?

We make cuts in our lives to make our existence better and try to establish ourselves comfortably so that we can live a life, but then we have no time for it because we put in 22 hours!

The question we must ask ourselves is: Where is our life? We put in a long day at work and then come home, but what is home? Is it a break from life? Is it a place where we can collapse and chill out and rest up for another day of life, or is this where our life happens?

Like A Deer Thirsting For Water

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Once, I was asked to speak to a group of Hebrew students.

When they told me they were studying Psalms, I asked them about the verse from where King David says “As a deer thirsts for streams of water, so I thirst for you, God.” (Psalm 42:2) “Do you thing this is an exaggeration?” I asked, “Or was King David only talking about his own feelings?”

Surely, I said, we don’t yearn for God like an animal dying of thirst yearns for water, and the class seemed to agree.

“But,” I said “we have all done things that we’re ashamed, we all have said thing we are ashamed of, and we have all thought thoughts we are ashamed of; How can we live like this? How can we live being ashamed of our thoughts, words, and actions?”

We all know the pain of shame and guilt.

To live in shame hurts terribly. It hurts more than the deer’s thirst for water in the desert. So, is it an exaggeration that we need God, that we need beauty and innocence and holiness as much as a deer needs water?

Can We Hurt God?

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We’d like to believe that God loves us, and in fact, the Torah says that God loves us. But if what we do doesn’t really count, and if whether we follow his commandments and Mitzvahs or not doesn’t really matter to him that much, then what does it mean that he loves us?

You can’t really have love without vulnerability. If what I do can’t hurt you then you can’t love me. If I say I love you very much, but if you’re not interested in me then I don’t care, or, I love you very much but if you don’t play along with what I want then that’s okay because I I don’t need you, then that’s not love, it’s manipulation. It’s like saying love me and you’ll benefit, but if you don’t only you lose, that’s not love. If it doesn’t hurt me, if I don’t need your participation, if I don’t need your relationship with you, then I can’t claim to love you.

Without recognizing that God has an investment in his creation, we can’t say he loves us. Obviously, he created the world for a purpose, and that purpose needs to be realized. It’s not like “yeah I had a purpose, but if it doesn’t work out it’s also good.” God creating the world for a reason means he’s got an investment, which means that it matters to him. He cares, he needs to have it a certain way so that whether we choose to do it or choose not to do it makes a huge difference. We can hurt him. That’s why when he says he loves us it’s real love, because you can only love that which could love you back or might hate you back. If you can’t afford to love someone who might hate you back it’s not real love.

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