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.

Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Don't worry, be happy!

That's a nice slogan or song, but does it reflect reality? How can one be happy with all the challenges that we face? The truth is that happiness, or simcha in Hebrew, is not easily attained. We have to work to be happy, it doesn't come as an automatic result of some external stimulus, but as a result of our internal work.

Our sages extol the virtue of being "happy with our lot", but this is only praiseworthy with regard to our physical possessions and material life. When we are satisfied and appreciate the blessings that we have (and we all have positive in our life), we are free to be happy. When it comes to nourishing our soul however, we must constantly work to grow. We can never be satisfied.

In order to be truly happy, we need to include our soul. After all, we are a composite being, made of a body and soul. But why do we have to grow to be happy? Can't we just be satisfied with what we've accomplished until now (like we strive to be content with our material lives)?

The imperative to grow spiritually as a part of being happy is due to the fact that physically our bodies are continuously nourished and growing. In order to keep the needed balance between our body and soul, we need to grow spiritually as well.

When we satisfy our spiritual hunger, we can truly be happy. Until then we will always feel something missing. We try to fill our lives with all types of "things"; Maybe we need another vacation? But nothing works, it's all temporary fixes. True happiness can only come when we include our neshamah, our soul, by adding an extra mitzvah and studying more Torah.

Read about simcha, happiness or joy on our website, click here.

Where's Goldie?

This weekend my wife, Goldie, is in New York participating in the Worldwide Conference of Shluchot, an international gathering of Chabad women leaders. The Rebbe, the inspiration behind the work that Chabad does locally and the world over, continuously emphasized the integral role of the Jewish woman. This weekend, in addition to the inspirational workshops and programs, serves to celebrate their invaluable contribution. It is always scheduled to coincide with the Yahrtzeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka Schneerson (wife of the Rebbe), whose life continues to be an inspiration to so many Chabad women.
Men and women are different; therefore their roles are different too. But unlike what some seem to think, that different means secondary or inferior, the Chabad attitude is that women are different but equal. In some respects, the contribution of women is greater than that of men; it is up to them to ensure Jewish continuity and as such the Jewish education of the entire house is under their responsibility.
Click here to learn more about the unique Jewish feminine contribution on our extensive Jewish Woman’s site.
While Goldie is in New York, she will be visiting and praying at the resting place of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, an auspicious and holy place. If you would like her to pray on your behalf or on behalf of a family member who could use a blessing, please email her [email protected]. Please include in the email your Jewish name and your mother’s Jewish name, as it is customary to include them in the prayer.
Please note: The banquet concluding the women’s conference will be broadcast live online this Sunday at 3pm and you can watch it on our website by
clicking here.

I Won't Shake Your Hand... Ask Me Why!

I have many practices that, as an observant Jew living in Folsom, raise eyebrows. But the one that takes the cake is the standard of avoiding any type of physical contact with women. Many times when I meet women I put them in an uncomfortable position by declining to shake their outstretched hand (and you should see the expression on some men's faces when my wife does the same thing to them!). I explain that observant Jews reserve physical contact between genders for husband and wife.

Although occasionally there are women who take offense, most people are respectful and some even appreciate the custom. One woman told me that she would sleep much better at night if she knew that her husband held himself to such a standard...

But, why?! is the real question. Isn’t that a little extreme? Well, perhaps. I can see why you could think so. And we can discuss the pros and the cons. But one important point is this: It creates a real exclusivity to the husband-wife relationship.

Judaism’s idea on the relationship between men and women is diametrically different than the prevailing attitude that basically anything goes. Judaism views the relationship as something spiritual and holy, even G-dly. It is for this reason that the Torah places such an emphasis on the parameters of the relationship.

Another important difference in perspective can be gleaned from the Hebrew word for love, Ahava. Today the attitude is what can I get from this relationship? What’s in it for me? Ahava - love is connected to the word hav - give. It’s not about what I can get from this relationship, it’s what can I give.

What's a Rabbi Like Me Doing in Folsom?

Have you ever wondered why a rabbi like me would choose to live in Folsom? Why did I move my family from a vibrant Jewish community to an area that is not (as of yet) known for its Jewish community?

It was due to the inspiration of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbe uplifted the worldwide Jewish community that was devastated by the Holocaust. The Rebbe’s inspiration gave life and hope to a people whose prospects were bleak in a hostile world. An integral part of the Rebbe’s work was his encouraging young rabbis to move to communities whose Jewish infrastructure was lacking, to reach out to the unaffiliated and uninspired Jew and awaken their dormant Jewish soul.

Today, the
10th of Shevat on the Jewish calendar, marks the anniversary of his accepting the mantle of leadership of the Chabad movement. In his landmark inaugural address, the Rebbe outlined his outlook on the world and our mission within it.

In Shir HaShirim (Solomon’s Song of Songs) the world is described as a garden. Many may perceive the world to be more similar to a jungle, a haphazard place where wild animals dominate. They look around and see the base behavior and immorality that prevails. They see the violence, the hatred, the pain and the suffering. And they conclude that this world is a jungle, a wild place that has no good in it.

However, the Torah describes the world as a garden, a place that Hashem refers to as My garden. It is essentially good.

When we perceive the world in this way, we can have the hope to better this world. We recognize the good that is within it and we work on revealing the good that is there. We work on cultivating G-d’s garden. Just by looking with this perspective, even before we start the work, we begin to recognize the good that is out there.

I’m reminded of a great quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty”.

Let’s reveal the good in this world and help cultivate Hashem’s garden.

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.