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.

Smile... You'll Like It!

The shopkeeper was troubled when a brand new business, much like his own, opened up next door and erected a huge sign which read "BEST DEALS".
He was horrified when another competitor opened up on his right, and announced its arrival with an even larger sign, reading "LOWEST PRICES".
The shopkeeper was distraught, until he had an idea. He put the biggest sign of all over his own shop-it read... "MAIN ENTRANCE".

Rabbi Baroka, a Talmudic sage, visited a market place accompanied by Elijah the Prophet. Surveying the scene, he asked, “Is there anyone here who will receive a portion in the world to come?” Elijah pointed out two men who were walking through the market place and responded, “Those two."

Rabbi Baroka approached the men and enquired as to their trade hoping to discover the special merit that deserved such a reward. “We are comedians,” they responded. “We entertain and amuse people with our jokes and when there is a quarrel we attempt to lighten the situation through our comedy."

Think about this story for a minute; there must have been many people at the market place that day. I’m sure there was an entire cross-section of society at the market, possibly including other sages. Certainly there were honest shopkeepers who kept accurate weights and didn’t overcharge their customers. However, who was pointed out as meriting the world to come? The two people who spent their time making people smile.

We may not always realize the impact that our positive attitude has on those whom we encounter. It’s not only our mood that is affected by our smile but all those who we interact with. Beginning with our family, extending to our co-workers and even strangers, we have a moral obligation to great them with a positive attitude.

The Talmud relates that smiling when giving a poor person charity is even greater than the money we are sharing, for it nourishes not only their body but also their soul.

And what do you know? All challenges are easier to face when we have a positive attitude.


An Open Letter to a Concealed G-d

By Simon Jacobson 

Dear G-d,

It’s been a while. How are You?

Though You didn’t ask, let me share with You how we are. Bluntly put: We’re not doing so well down here.

Last Friday night – as You surely know – a beautiful family was butchered in cold blood. A father, mother and their three children. Just to confirm that You get their names and ages right, to assure them their box seats in heaven, here is the exact spelling of their names: Udi Fogel, 36. Ruth Fogel, 35. Yoav Fogel, 11. Elad Fogel, 4. Hadas Fogel, 3 months.

Yes, You read that right, 3 months old… Throats slashed – all of them. What did they do wrong? They were sleeping in their home in the Promised Land, on a Friday night, after praying Shabbat services and eating the Shabbat meal, reciting blessings and singing Your praises.

Yes, indeed: This happened on Shabbat. On Your Shabbat. And in Your Holy Land. The land that Your eyes “watch from the beginning of the year till the end of the year.”

In Japan, one of Your “natural disasters” – in the guise of an earthquake and tsunami – devastated an entire region, leaving over 25,000 dead, and millions displaced.

Read the whole thing

This is Why Terror Attacks Continue

This past Shabbat we witnessed Palestinian terror once again rear it’s ugly head and in a most horrific manner. Almost an entire family was murdered in cold blood in their sleep, may G-d avenge their death!

Following this terrible attack the Israeli government approved the construction of 500 new housing units in the “West Bank”. So what does our so-called friendly State Department respond? The State Department said in a statement Sunday that Washington was “deeply concerned by continuing Israeli actions with respect to settlements in the West Bank."

"Continued Israeli settlements are illegitimate and run counter to efforts to resume direct negotiations," the statement said, adding that "through good faith direct negotiations, the parties should mutually agree on an outcome that realizes the aspirations of both parties."

As if the construction that Israel has approved is the impediment to peace! Do you want to know why these terror attacks continue, why there is no peace in Israel? Hint - it has nothing to do with Israel building "settlements" or the so-called "occupation". This video will clarify it: 


New Trends in Arabic Anti-semitism from Henrik Clausen on Vimeo.

Jewish Guilt?

A Jewish mother sent her son Joey two new sweaters ahead of her visit. When she arrived, Joey made sure to be wearing one of the sweaters. Upon arrival, his mother took one look at him and exclaimed, “What’s the matter? You don’t like the other one?”

These stereotypical jokes of Jewish mothers have been around for years, with jokes about Jewish guilt coming in a close second. With a disproportionate number of Jewish comedians, there’s bound to be many “internal” Jewish jokes. I haven’t researched the matter and I don’t profess to know the source of this humor (perhaps these jokes grew out of their authors’ experience?), but this myth of a uniquely Jewish brand of guilt has almost been accepted by American Jews as reality.

Notwithstanding the fabricated nature of “Jewish Guilt”, therein lies a profoundly Jewish concept; the responsibility and control that we have for our actions, for our decisions and for our life’s choices. Even when faced with personal challenges, with pain and suffering, we don’t ask why it happened, rather what we can do about it.

In 1974, shortly after the Yom Kippur War, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, former Chief Rabbi of Israel, came to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe in New York. Israel was slowly and painfully beginning to recover from the losses endured in the war. In the course of the conversation, the Rebbe asked him what was the mood “on the street” in Israel. Rabbi Lau responded that people are asking, “Vos vet zain – What will be?”

The Rebbe grasped Rabbi Lau’s arm and passionately replied, “Yiden fregen nit vos vet zein; zei fregen, vos geyen mir ton? – Jew’s don’t ask ‘What will be?’ [Rather,] they [should] ask, ‘What are we going to do?”

The next time we are faced with a challenge, no matter how seemingly insurmountable, we must remember to ask the positive, proactive question of “What are we going to do?” rather than the reactive, despairing question of “Why?”

What Gaddafi Should've Learnt From Moses

So you wonder, what in the world is the connection between Moses and Gaddafi?? The truth is you’re right; they don’t have much in common. That’s why Gaddafi is on the verge of being overthrown, ending a long dishonorable and tyrannical career. Gaddafi would have been wise to glean some insight from Moses’ example.

The Torah relates in this week’s portion that after the donations and materials for the Tabernacle were collected, Moses presented a detailed accounting of all the gold, silver and other materials. Based on the emphasis placed on this level of accountability that even a trusted leader like Moses was held to, the sages advise all those in charge of communal funds to likewise hold themselves accountable and act in a transparent manner. (This is a message that I take quite seriously myself).

On a more personal level, the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) tells us that each of us will be held accountable for our actions in this lifetime. We are expected to provide a “din v’cheshbon” (justification and accounting) of our life’s decisions and personal choices.

Pretty heavy, no?

Imagine how our choices would change for the good and how our life would look if we stopped to think before we acted? If we are cognizant of the accountability and responsibility that we each have, it will have a direct and positive influence on our lifestyle, our relationships and our quality of life.

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