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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.

Do you educate your child/ren?

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Physics Teacher: “Isaac Newton was sitting under a tree when an apple fell on his head and he discovered gravity. Isn’t that wonderful?”

Student: “Yes sir, if he had been sitting in class looking at books like us, he wouldn’t have discovered anything."

The young man has a valid point because true education does not take place in the classroom.

The question is: Do you educate your child/ren? I don’t mean do you send your child/ren to school, you must - that’s the law. Rather do you educate your childr/en? School is where students learn skills; education is learning how to live.

A student can successfully complete all their school years and honestly say, “I’ve been taught many wonderful and important things, but never why to behave.”  This is where true education comes in and this is the parent’s responsibility. It can’t be outsourced to the school system or even the synagogue; parents have the responsibility to educate their children.

True education is inculcating an awareness of our deep-rooted responsibility - to G-d - to live ethically and morally.

Parents today are influenced by those who say, “Let your child discover themselves.” Today children are not told to believe in G-d; rather they’re encouraged to “believe in yourself.” But this statement means different things based on different perspectives. From a G-d centered perspective, this statement means to be firm in your convictions and live with integrity even at potential personal cost. From a secular perspective, however, this means to accept your desires and inclinations, whatever they may be. This egocentric guidance leaves a child cold and searching for purpose.

Today’s children need a sense of purpose that extends beyond themselves. They need to be given the tools to stand strong in the face of modern moral ambiguity. Children need to be educated.

Be the Boss!

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Do you know the difference between The Boss and an employee?

If you take a long time, you’re slow. But if your boss takes a long time, he’s thorough. If you don’t do it, you’re lazy. But if your boss doesn’t do it, he’s too busy. If you make a mistake, you’re at fault.
But if your boss makes a mistake, he’s ‘only human.’

On a more serious note – the true difference between the boss and an employee is not necessarily apparent during work hours. It’s when they go home. It’s much easier for the employee to shift his/her mind to other things, but the boss is always thinking about the business. When an issue comes up, the boss will stay late to solve the problem and will continue to work on it many hours after going home, losing sleep and not eating until the problem has been resolved.

This is not to say that the employee doesn’t care for the success of the company, after all, his/her livelihood depends on it. However, it is not personal. The employee will complete their responsibility and be satisfied that they’ve done their part. The boss will not rest until every detail of the business has been settled.

In our personal lives there are things that we approach as employees; our distant relatives 50th anniversary – we try to make it but if “something comes up” we politely excuse ourselves from participating. Contrast that with your own anniversary – you approach it as a boss, not missing it for anything!

You are Jewish today because your ancestors approached their Jewishness as the boss – it was of ultimate importance to them. For your family to remain Jewish you need to sit in the boss’s chair, it needs to be of utmost importance.

You have it in your DNA, you can be the boss – it’s just a decision away. Make the decision today – you’ll be pleased you did!

Enhance your relationship

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Described as a one-of-a-kind discovery, a mikvah has been found in Connecticut at the site of a 19th century era rural Jewish settlement. It’s a significant find in the US, but it’s practically modern compared to the numerous mikvahs that have been unearthed at many archeological sites in Israel. You may be familiar with the use of a mikvah today but do you know how else it was used in the time of the Temple?

In order to visit the Temple, in fact, in order to ascend the Temple Mount, one had to be ritually pure. The concept of ritual purity is enigmatic to say the least; there is no logical basis for these laws, they are only fulfilled due to Hashem’s command in the Torah.

The Torah contains many laws associated with ritual purity, however many of them cannot be fulfilled today due to the lack of a Temple. Could it be that so many verses of the Torah are not relevant today at all?! There must be some personal relevance that can be found in these laws – Hashem’s word, as communicated in the Torah, is eternal. What is the eternal message found in these seemingly out-of-date laws?

Another question: These type of supra-rational laws are called Chukim in Hebrew. This week’s Torah portion is Chukat and it begins with the statement “This is the statute (chukat) of the Torah.” Strangely enough it describes a specific law of ritual purity (the Red Heifer) as “the statute (chukat) of the Torah.” Why is it referred to in this way? Aren’t the laws discussed only relevant to the particular discussion of ritual purity? Why the general statement?

Every mitzvah is, at its core, a Divine Desire – Hashem’s will. By associating the supra-rational laws taught in the beginning of this week’s portion with all the mitzvot, the Torah is communicating that we should fulfill them all – even the logical ones – as Hashem’s will. We fulfill them not because they make sense but because they are the Divine Desire.

Put it this way, when you’re in a relationship – you do what your significant other wants, not because it makes sense (many times it actually may not!) but because it’s their expressed (or unexpressed) desire.

One more important point – it’s probably a good idea to do what your significant other wants even if it seems trivial and insignificant to you. The point is that you demonstrate that you value the relationship by doing what they want.

So too, we do the mitzvot because they are Hashem’s will not because it is healthy, logical or any other reason – only because that’s what Hashem wants us to do. When viewed in this way, there is also no difference between an “important” mitzvah and one that is seemingly “less significant”. Every mitzvah demonstrates that we value our relationship with Hashem.

Miracle Working 101

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Here’s a little secret that I’ve been keeping to myself for quite some time: I can perform miracles. No, I haven’t gone off the deep end – I truly can perform miracles. Not only that, I can train you too– for free! - in the secret practice of miracle working.

Ready for some free training? Let’s jump right in to Miracle Working 101.

First, though, we need to understand just what is a miracle? A miracle is an extraordinary, supernatural event. More specifically, there are two sorts of miracles; the type that overwhelms and shatters the natural order of the world (e.g. the splitting of the Reed Sea described in the Torah) and the type of miracle that is disguised in natural events. A timely example of this second sort of miracle would be the Six Day War that took place this week 46 years ago.

Here’s where the miraculous fun begins! For this to work you need to actually participate in this exercise. Choose one personality trait that you would like to perfect. Now, perfect it. Poof! A miracle has been performed!

What’s that you say? Not so simple? Well of course there are times of inspiration when everything just happens to go right – that’s the first sort of miracle. It just overpowers our nature and we seem perfect for a day or two. But then reality sets back in.

The good news is that there is the second kind of miracle. We can expand and stretch our nature, ever so slowly nudging it in the right direction. This is a miracle which is disguised as nature. It’s far from natural but because it happens over time, we don’t appreciate its miraculous-ness.

This week, we study about a strange event. Following the rebellion of Korach, in order to prove that Aaron was the Heaven-chosen High Priest, a miracle occurred. Aaron’s staff, made of plain wood, blossomed and grew almonds. The strange thing about this is that the same Producer of Nature-Shattering Miracles, G-d, seems to keep within the laws of nature in performing this miracle. Why did Aarons staff have to first blossom in order to grow miraculous almonds? Although it was completely miraculous it conformed (somewhat) to natures terms. Strange, no?

There’s a profound lesson here. We each have the ability to perform miracles. We can change the negative aspects of our life for good. But it doesn’t have to be in a dramatic nature-shattering way (that usually doesn’t last anyway), it can be accomplished by pushing the confines of our nature outward.

Then all we need to do is step back and appreciate the miraculous change that we have enabled. Performing miracles is lots fun! Shall we do another?

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