Rabbi Yossi's Blog

Welcome to Rabbi Yossi's Blog; where you can expect to find thoughts on current events, Torah learning and Jewish spirituality. And of course, some good Jewish humor.

Jewish Business Network Founding Event

The founding event of the Jewish Business Network took place last night, at the Red Lion Hotel in Sacramento. The turnout was nice, close to 100 people, and the atmosphere was amiable. There was great kosher food (brought in from S. Francisco) and (thank G-d!) the coffee was brewed and fresh. (I’ve discovered that you can’t expect a good coffee at an event anymore – too often they try to pretend that instant coffee is really freshly brewed!)

The hotel’s owner, Mr. Jeffery Berger, announced plans to build an entirely separate kosher kitchen. (I think that it will be the first hotel in the area with one.) Mr. Buzz Oates was the guest speaker, and he spoke more like a Rabbi than a businessman! In all, I think it was a very nice event and I look forward to seeing the network grow in the future.

One glitch I noticed; due to the layout of the room, which was set up classroom style, there wasn’t much space to stand around and mingle.   I think this may have limited the networking opportunities for some of the businessman present. In addition,  due to a small miscommunication, the opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves and their businesses over the mic was left out.

I hope we’ll be able to fix these issues for the next event on April 9th


Check out this blurb from the Sac Bee:



The Tipping Point

Yesterday I discovered a fantastic little store right here in Folsom! In general I like those little second hand stores where you can discover just about anything. Nowadays you rarely see them anymore… Anyway, Colton Books on E. Bidwell is such a store. It’s small, but very well stocked with second-hand books on just about anything! Everything is laid out in a clear, easy to find manner and best of all, the owner is very friendly and helpful! (In fact, I discovered as we spoke, she is Jewish too!)

So, I ended up leaving with a book called “The Tipping Point”. It sounded interesting but what took me was the subtitle; “How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference”. You see, this notion is an oft-repeated theme in Jewish (and even more so in Chassidic) writings.

Maimonides writes that one should consider the world as an equally balance scale. With one good deed we can “tip the scale” and change the whole world for good.

Interestingly, the graphic on the cover of this book is a match. (I guess we know how a little match can affect so many from the recent wild fires in southern California). In Chassidic sources this concept is echoed in the saying “Me’at or docheh harbeh choshech” – “A small light dispels much darkness”.

Now I’ll read this book to find out what Malcolm Gladwell has to say on the matter.

Good News!

After getting the run around from some of the local schools, we finally found one with a helpful principal. We are pleased to announce that we have finalized the location of the March 20th Purim Family Fun event! It will be held in the multipurpose room at the Sandra J. Gallardo Elementary School in Folsom. The program will include a ventriloquist and a balloon twister, in addition to the Megilllah reading. Of course, traditional Hamantashen will be served. There will also be a masquerade contest for all ages - be sure to come in costumes (modest please)!! Hope to see you there!

Shabbat Shalom!

Looking for inspiration? I liked this article based on this week's Torah portion:

Picking Up the Pieces

Kosher Candy

I just received this story by email:       

A Jewish man was in a supermarket in ThornhillOntario. He saw an obviously non-Jewish woman trying to get her young child to put down a candy bar he had picked off the shelf.
'Latrell, you put that down! It's not kosher!'
Intrigued, the young man decided to investigate.
'Excuse me, ma'am, are you Jewish?'
'So why did you say that?'
'Why? I'll tell you why. 'Cuz I see all them Jewish mothers saying that to their kids -- and it works, so I decided to try it.'

I guess, after all, we’re supposed to be a “light unto the nations”… J

I wonder though, how is it that kids sense when we really “mean it”?

West Coast Rabbi's Conference

Ok, so I haven’t posted for a whole week. But I have an excuse: I was about 468.39 miles from my house attending the Conference of West Coast Chabad Rabbis. You can read about it here. From now on I will, G-d willing, post on a regular basis – so please stop by often! Anyway, the conference was at the Chabad Retreats location in Running Springs in the S. Bernardino Mountains. You get quite some view at 6500 feet elevation! I tried to get a good picture to share but being that it wasn’t such a clear day this is the best I got:

By the way this place was in the headlines a few months ago during the wildfires click here for a news article featuring the site and the support that they provided to the firefighters.

The guest speaker at the conference was bestselling author and founder of E-Myth Worldwide Mr. Michael Gerber, the World’s #1 Small Business Guru. Mr. Gerber was born Jewish but aside from his Bar-Mitzvah was never involved in his heritage. Recently he was so inspired by some Chabad Rabbi’s he met, that he now includes the lessons he learnt from Chabad in his talks and articles. Click here to see what he wrote about his experience at the conference. Click here for a video of his talk at the Second Annual Arizona Entrepreneurship Conference during which he speaks of his first encounter with Chabad (click on the chapter “The Little Jewish Cap”).

Oh, I almost forgot, today is Purim Katan (lit. the small Purim). It happens whenever there is a Jewish leap year. More information on that here. I guess it’s kinda like a reminder that Purim is coming soon. We hope to see you at our Purim events!

The Extra Mile

Last night, during our weekly Torah class, we discussed an interesting topic that I’d like to share with you. Just to fill you in: this week’s Torah portion of Tetzaveh is the only portion written after Moses is introduced to us in which his name is not mentioned. (For more on that, see here). According to the annual Torah reading cycle, Tetzavah is read in close proximity to 7 Adar, the day of Moses’ passing. Therefore, the Torah hints to his passing by not (explicitly) mentioning his name in Tetzavah.

(Truth is that it is actually the anniversary of both Moses' Birth & Passing (1393 and 1273 BCE). However, we focused on his passing and during the discussion, the following story was mentioned).

The Talmud (Avodah Zarah 18a), relates a story about R’ Chanina ben Tradyon who, contrary to the Roman decree of the time, publicly taught Torah. This was an offense punishable with death. When warned by his colleague, R’ Yose ben Kisma, of the fate that awaited him were he to be caught, he inquired as to his portion in the World to Come. R’ Yose ben Kisma replied “Is there any particular act that you have done (to deserve a portion)?” To which he replied “'I once mistook Purim-money (set aside to buy the food for the Purim feast) for ordinary charity-money, and I distributed (of my own money) to the poor.” “Well then,” said R’ Yose ben Kisma, “I wish that your portion were my portion and your lot my lot.” (In other words, yes you will receive a portion in the World to Come).

I don’t understand: R’ Chanina ben Tradyon was actively teaching Torah to the public, a mitzvah which alone is considered great. In addition he was doing this disregarding his own personal safety. And still, when asked if there was a mitzvah by virtue of which he deserved a portion in the World to Come, he referred to some other mitzvah that he had done last Purim. A great mitzvah indeed, but considering the circumstances, wouldn’t his public Torah classes be “worth” more?

A teacher shared the following insight. We all have our “comfort zone”, what really counts however, is when we step out of our “zone” and put in the extra effort. Perhaps R’ Chanina ben Tradyon was such an devoted teacher, it was so much part of his nature, that even the Roman’s threats of death were not enough to stop him. But this was all within his element, his “comfort zone”. In order for him to deserve a portion in the World to Come, he had to prove that he had stepped out of his natural “comfort zone” and “gone the extra mile”.

Mezuzah Mania

If you've been over to our house recently, you may have seen it. It's shriveled and deformed. I can't stop talking about it. It's my "Show and Tell" for any one who stops in. And now I'll show it to you:







Look closely, can you tell what it is? It's a Mezuzah. Or should I say, it was a Mezuzah. It was ruined in the rain. A Mezuzah is painstakingly written by an expert scribe using ink on parchment. It could last many years without needing more than a quick touch-up. That is, as long as it doesn't get wet.

Recently I assisted quite a few families in the area in affixing new Mezuzot. So I pull up to my driveway one day and I'm thinking about Mezuzot. As I get out of the car, I notice that one of the Mezuzot on the garage door is a strange color. It turns out that the rain had seeped into the case and soaked the Mezuzah! It was waaaay too late to do anything about it (other than order a new one).

So what's the upside? Well, I managed to salvage most of the other outdoor Mezuzot (only one other was also damaged beyond repair). In addition I now have a sample of a water damaged Mezuzah. After showing a few people how an unchecked Mezuzah could look, they were inspired to check their own Mezuzot and three damaged ones were replaced with new ones.

Bottom line is, I would like to share with you how to protect (as best as possible) the outdoor Mezuzot. First, be sure to get a case that is sealed on the sides and only opens from the bottom. Second, use a sealant or liquid nails to seal the sides of the case and ensure that moisture will not get in. Also, it's probably a good idea to take a close look inside the case of the Mezuzah every once in a while and make sure there is no water getting inside. It's best to get an opaque case - this will protect the Mezuzah from the powerful sun during the summer.

Speaking of Mezuzot, I came across this recently:













The world's largest Mezuzah!












Anyway, if your Mezuzah has not been checked recently (the Rabbis say it should be checked twice within seven years) I'd be happy to help! Give me a call and I'll arrange for them to be checked.


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