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.

Do you stop, to think?

When was the last time you stopped to think? I mean, how often do we make decisions – and even important ones – based on what our neighbors/friends/co-workers are doing? How did we become a society that decides what to do and when to do it, based on whether or not “everyone will be there” or “everyone has it” or “everyone else is doing it”?

Some people have the attitude, as the saying goes, “thinking is the greatest torture in the world for most people.” I can empathize – on impulse I may want to buy something, but when I stop to think about it, I realize that I don’t need it or can’t afford it. Thinking can indeed be torture.

But a human being is a thinking being. That is what makes us unique, different from every other creation in this world. And thinking is essential to living as a Jew (especially in our part of the world!).

It’s all too easy to go through life allowing everyone else to make important decisions for us. “No one else around here keeps kosher” or “everyone enrolls their children in soccer on Saturdays.” If it’s important to send your child to, say, Hebrew School or Jewish Day Camp - why is it relevant to know how many other families will be involved and who else is sending their children?

If we would stop to think, we would realize that it is important to us that our family be raised in a Jewish environment. To accomplish that goal we must prioritize, we can’t do everything and raise a Jewish family. Then again, if we would stop to think, we would all weigh 10 pounds less…

It’s time we stop, to think.

Do Jews believe in reincarnation?

One of the more interesting questions I get asked is, “Rabbi, do Jews believe in reincarnation?”

The short answer to the question is: Yes, Judaism does believe in the concept of reincarnation (you can find many articles on our website that explain the Jewish view, click here for more).

As with so many other theological and religious questions, many people believe that the Jewish view is more or less the same as other religions. And as is true with so many other questions, so too with this one: The Jewish idea of reincarnation is radically different from other doctrines.

The most prominent difference of all is that many Eastern religions consider reincarnation to be a central tenet of their belief. In Judaism, this is definitely not the case. It is not listed as one of the 613 Mitzvot or as one of Maimonides’ 13 Principles of Faith.

On a more subtle, but perhaps more important level: Other beliefs include the unwritten implication that reincarnation is really one continuous consciousness, but we only get to observe one section. Were we to widen the view a little, we would be able to appreciate that these seemingly separate experiences are really one.

This is not consistent with the Jewish view. Judaism believes that every single person is responsible for their own life. There was never a “you” in the past and there will never be a “you” in the future. The most important moment in the history of creation is right now. And the most important person in the entire history of creation is… You!

Our job, for which the entire creation has been waiting, is to elevate our mundane world. We have the ability – and responsibility – to infuse this world with G-dliness. So the next time you’re going to take a bite of food or a drink of water (or any other “simple” activity), take a moment to reflect on what you’re doing and fill the moment with mindfulness. Click here for some easy to incorporate “mindfulness minutes” (otherwise known as Mitzvah Minutes).

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