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.

Have you been charged over minute fees?

The reps at the call centers of cell phone companies must be used to dealing with lots of frustrated callers. This week I had the bothersome task of calling Sprint to find out why I was charged over $100 extra on my recent bill. It turns out that due to some error in the system, they had been unnecessarily charging me overage fees.

Basically, cell phone plans include a certain amount of minutes monthly, but listen to this, they charge an exorbitant amount per each extra minute used!

Why do they charge so much for the extra minutes (aside for their interest in turning a profit)? Because it’s above the norm, it’s more than expected, therefore the fees are greater.

This reminded me of a question posed by the Talmud; how do we define “one who serves G-d?” I recently posed this question at a class and received answers like humble, caring and subservient. How would you define “one who serves G-d?”

The Talmud’s conclusion is that one who “studies his portion 101 times” can be defined as one who serves G-d. Is the Talmud saying that one has to study an immense amount in order to reach the  status of “one who serves G-d”?

Actually, a point of clarification is necessary. You see, in those times the standard and the baseline was to study every portion 100 times. So in truth one who studies his portion 101 times is only adding one more time to the expected norm. And the Talmud emphasizes that the significance of the achievement is that this person has pushed him/herself beyond their regular achievement, they are growing and they are active, not stagnant.

Society puts great emphasis on achieving goals, the extent that sometimes we do not realize that the goal can be within the steps themselves. In my position as a Chabad rabbi, I often encourage people to incorporate an extra mitzvah into their lives. Invariably people will tell me, “but Rabbi, I’m not religious.” Hey, you know what? I realize that! But as a Jew you have the opportunity (and truthfully the responsibility) to grow in your Jewishness. Every step, every Mitzvah incorporated in your life, is in itself the goal.

The sign of life is growth. The goal is to give life to your Jewishness, to grow it. One small step at a time.

An Attitude of Gratitude

Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed this morning? Are you having a hard day? If not today, I’m sure you can remember a day recently that you woke up on “the wrong side of bed” and the day just never righted itself.
We all experience “bad days”, but how can we take control of our day and not allow external factors to determine how our day is going to be?
I propose that we adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Actually, it’s not my original idea. You see, according to Jewish tradition, there is an understated but extremely powerful tool that enables us to begin our day on the right foot no matter how we feel when we open our eyes.
I’m referring to the Modeh Ani. In full it reads as follows “Modeh anee lefanecha melech chai vekayam, she-he-chezarta bee nishmasee b’chemla, rabba emunasecha.” I offer thanks to You, living and eternal king, for You have restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great.
Think about the message within this line. It says, “Yes, I can’t pay the bills but I am healthy.” It says, “Yes, my car won’t start but I have a job.” It says, “Yes there are challenges in my life, it’s not all rosy, but I will consciously pay attention to the positive things, to the blessings in my life!”
Try focusing on the blessings in your life and you will soon discover more positive things to appreciate. Instead of the challenges and obstacles defining your day, the blessings will.

Responding to tragedy

The Jewish world was shocked and horrified this week at the terrible news of the brutal murder of 8 year old Leiby Kletzky of Brooklyn, NY.

There are times when words fail us, not because there are no words, but because they lack the capacity to express the depth of the feelings and emotions they contain. When the young pure and holy life of Leiby Kletzky was brutally snuffed out this week in Boro Park, the world trembled and the Jewish world in particular was shaken to the core. There are questions but there are no answers.

What was the response of Leiby's father? Standing before thousands, Reb Nachman Kletzky solemnly and tearfully declared: "G-d gives and G-d takes. Thank you G-d, for giving us Leiby for nine years. We have to thank You for what You gave us. Pray for your parents, your sisters and the rest of your family, including the entire Jewish nation, which is now part of our family".

No one should ever have to experience the pain that Kletzky family feels. But truthfully we are all connected and their pain is truly our pain. Our response to such an outrageous act of evil must be with an outrageous act of goodness. Choose a meaningful deed of indiscriminate kindness to bring comfort to young Leiby’s soul. May Hashem wipe away the tears of sadness and replace them with tears of gladness and redemption.

I need it NOW!

I need it NOW!

These few words can sum up in a lot of ways all that’s wrong with contemporary society. It is the theme of the “Give Me” generation, of the children who were raised with their every wish fulfilled. Their parents grew up having to work hard and to save, and they grow up in relative luxury. Many grow into adulthood bereft of ideals, morals and principals. They demand instant pleasure and gratification. They refuse to wait, they refuse to work and they refuse to shoulder responsibility. This attitude and lack of commitment has been pointed to as the beginning of the breakdown of the family and the collapse of society.

As the prayer of the modern day goes, “G-d grant me patience… NOW”!

Nowadays we get impatient when a web page takes more than a few seconds to load, conveniently forgetting that a few years ago the very concept of exchanging information around the world took literally days. But is it all bad? Can we perhaps learn a positive lesson from all this impatience?

As with all negative behaviors and attitudes, this too can be expressed in a constructive way. Instead of reluctantly accepting the status quo, continuing to live as we have in the past, we can expect – of ourselves – to change and to grow. Instead of waiting until the best time - once I marry, or retire, or the kids move out, or whatever – take the reins of life in your hand and start to lead your life where you truly want it to go.

And expect the change NOW! 

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