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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.

Mistaken Identity + Special LIVE Broadcast!

David was walking downtown and was surprised to meet his long lost friend, Moshe. “Moshe! It’s so good to see you!” he exclaimed. “My Moshe, how you’ve changed over the years. I hardly recognized you, the glasses, the grey hair – you even look a little shorter…” “Excuse me,” replied the man, “but my name is not Moshe.” “What!? You even changed your name!!”

It is not all that uncommon that we mistake one person for another but have you ever mistaken your own identity?

I think “mistaken identity” is a perfect diagnosis for the American Jewish community as a whole and many Jewish people individually as well. We have come to think that Judaism is about caring for global warming and social justice, and forgotten the holy mission that we have been charged.

When G-d chose the Jewish people at Mount Sinai, (an experience of mass revelation – an experience that no other religion can lay claim to), He told them. “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation.” There’s more to being Jewish than a common culture (which we don’t have) or similar food (which we also don’t have); we have been empowered to be a “holy nation”.

But what does it mean to be holy? I’m not a spiritual person! It means that we infuse our regular activities with higher purpose and meaning. We don’t just eat food, we are mindful of the idea that this food will be giving us the ability to do a mitzvah. So we make a blessing before we eat, to help us be conscious of this concept.

We are “amphibious creatures” – we exist in the physical world but we have a wholly spiritual side, a soul. It’s not enough to nourish our physical body, we have to remember our spiritual, G-dly side as well. And until we recognize that side of our self and nourish it, we will consistently be mistaken about our own identity.

What do you think? I think it’s time to get out and find yourself!

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I am in New York attending the annual Conference of Chabad Emissaries. On Sunday I will be visiting the resting place of the Rebbe. I’d be happy to include you and your family in my prayers, please reply to this email with the names of your family members and their mother (if you are not Jewish, send your name and your father’s name). This is a special opportunity to request a blessing for better health or parnassa (livelihood).

On Sunday afternoon the conference concludes with a banquet (the largest sit down dinner in New York) which will have a live broadcast online and will be available on our website – www.jewishfolsom.org/kinus live at 2:15 pm on Sunday. See if you can spot me in the crowd – I’ll be the one with the black hat!

Israeli's Talk About Chabad's Mitzvah Tank's

Nice video!

What Are Your Plans for Thanksgiving?

What are your plans for Thanksgiving?

Every holiday comes with its own traditions and Thanksgiving is no different. Beyond the turkey, it’s almost become an American custom to volunteer in soup kitchens or to assist those less fortunate than us in some other positive way.

The attitude is; because we recognize the gifts in our life, we are aware of those less fortunate. Which leads us to say, “I am blessed, what can I do to help you?”

Of all the American holidays, Thanksgiving is the one that is most in line with Judaism. But Jewish teachings take the concept of giving thanks one step further - more than expressing thankfulness to G-d for the blessings in our life, we have to connect it with an action.

We see this idea expressed with the mitzvah of bikurim - the obligation (in the times of the Temple in Jerusalem) to bring the first fruit to the Cohen in Jerusalem. A farmer harvesting his crop was obligated not only to thank G-d for the blessing in his life but to demonstrate that feeling by his actions; bringing the first of his fruit to the Cohen.

We thank G-d all the time; we make a blessing before we eat, we make a blessing after we eat; there are blessings said when appreciating nature and even blessings said upon waking up in the morning. But more important than expressing gratitude is the commitment, we must express this gratitude in deed.

Whatever your plans, my blessing to you this Thanksgiving is that you be able to stop and appreciate what is right about your life. And use that gratitude as a stepping stone for positive change.

Give Your Child Military Training

You may not follow NCAA Football (like me), but you most likely heard the horrifying story that broke this week of the former assistant coach at Penn State who was a serial child molester.
The scariest part of the story is the revelation that so many people at the school knew about the allegations and did little or nothing at all to stop it.

To me, the most instructional part of this terrible story was the reaction of a graduate student who caught this despicable assistant coach in the act and didn’t call the police! He first discussed it with his father, then the head coach, but never went to the police! His inexplicable decision enabled this monster of an individual to continue with his behavior for many more years, in which time he doubtlessly damaged many more lives.

This story serves to highlight the seriousness with which we must approach our obligation of educating our children. In a time when there is so much moral ambiguity, we must teach our children that there is right and there is wrong. Good and absolute evil. Not “good and not so good” or “good and possibly bad.” Good and bad. There must be clear red lines - this we do and this we do not.

How does this connect to making moral decisions? When children are raised with an acute sense of what’s right and what’s wrong, they are immeasurably better equipped to make the right decision when called to the task.

Today is Veteran’s Day, and we can learn an important lesson from the military training of every soldier. They endure rigorous ongoing training - for what purpose? To be able to march properly? No, it is to enable them to think clearly and make the right decision when under fire.

We have the moral obligation (in addition to the Torah obligation) to educate our children correctly. When we educate our children with the limitations (yes, healthy limitations) imposed by the Torah; this you can eat, this you can’t; today you can work, other days you can’t; this arms them for life.

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Here’s a great article by radio talk-show host Michael Medved on this idea:
http://www.jewishfolsom.org/42901

Occupy Wall Street - I'm With the 1%!

The Occupy Wall Street protest and its solidarity protests nationwide have recently been featured prominently in the news. I’m not here to comment on the politics of the matter (although I have many comments…) and my purpose is not to take sides. My purpose is to learn a lesson in our service of G-d, from all that’s going on around us.

A slogan that has been adopted by these protests is that it’s the 99% against the 1%. In other words, they’re decrying the fact that approximately 40% of the wealth is controlled by the top 1% of earners.

I think they have a point; it is 1% vs. 99% with regards to wealth. And I consider myself to be part of the 1%.

You see, I define wealth by the measuring stick referred to by the sages (Pirkei Avot 4:1) “Who is rich? One who is satisfied with his lot.”

Too often we look at other’s circumstances to gauge our level of success and happiness.  It’s true, in America today it is the 1% vs. the 99% - too few people live with the notion of being satisfied with their lot and I agree, it’s time that we change this. We can’t afford to continue with the status quo.

I’m part of the 1%, I hope you will become part of it too.

The MOST Important Video About Israel You'll Ever See!

Can't say I agree with every aspect of this video but it's definitely the best I've seen in a while!

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