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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.

Will your grandchildren be Jewish?

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I hear it all the time - parents lamenting the fact that their children aren’t as connected to their Jewish heritage as they’d like them to be. As much as we’d like to blame the “selling out” of the younger generation on modern times - the famous “things are different nowadays” mantra - it’s not a recent phenomenon. Jews throughout the ages have worried about how to transmit their heritage to the next generation.

And here’s the good news: We have 3000+ years of experience.

But it’s hard to fit 3000+ years of experience in one post, so I’ll share with you two keys points: passion and relevance.

Passion: The best educational message you can communicate to your children is non-verbal. When they see that you’re passionate about your Judaism, that has the deepest effect. And that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re completely observant - it means that you’re on an upwards path. It means that you are on an active journey. For too many of us, the journey ended at Bar/Bat Mitzvah. If we’re not inspired by our Judaism, how can we expect our kids to be?

The Torah portion this week  begins with the instruction to ensure that a constant fire burn on the altar: “And the fire on the altar shall burn on it; it shall not go out.” The Alter Rebbe would quote in the name of his teacher the Magid of Mezeritch that the words “Lo Tichbeh” (lit. “it shall not go out”) can also be read to mean “lo,” the negative - all things which are “no,” “tichbeh,” it shall extinguish.

When we serve G-d with passion and enthusiasm (represented by the fire on the altar), it causes all obstacles, the “no,” to be “extinguished.” When we’re passionate about our Judaism, we find it much easier to incorporate in our personal lives. And when we’re passionate about our Judaism it is compelling, it is attractive - we don’t have to “force” our children to remain connected, they want to remain connected.

Relevance: This key is learnt from the Passover Seder - the entire Seder is structured in such a way that we should not only recall the events of 3327 years ago, rather that we find relevance and personal application of the Passover message in our own life.

If our Judaism is relegated to the synagogue (or for some only the cemetery), then we are effectively communicating to our children that Judaism is not about real life. It is at best a nice addition, an optional extra, but not an essential part of our life.

So what do you do if you don’t have the passion and you haven’t found the relevance? Now, THAT’S a good question! For that you need a little (or a lot) of Torah. Join some classes, study Torah on a regular basis. Discover the depth and beauty that is there and it will transform your life and that of your family.

The Most Important Decisions

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A married couple who couldn’t agree on anything finally went for some help. After working with a therapist, they eventually came to a mutually amenable solution: He would make the big decisions and she would decide the less important ones.

One week later they were back, hostile as ever. “What happened?” asked the therapist, “I thought you had agreed to split the decision making fairly?” “She’s still not letting me make any decisions,” responded the husband. “That’s not true!” the wife retorted, “We agreed you make the big decisions and I make the small ones. Well, you get to decide the big things -  who should be president, whether we should invade Iraq and how we should engage with Russia. I deal with the small ones - where we should live, what type of car we should drive and whether we should redecorate the living room.”

With all pontificating about the Israeli elections this past week, it seems as though everyone has decided to make the big decisions, even though few of us have any influence in the matter. Now, I’m not discouraging holding an opinion or expressing it, it’s just important to keep in mind that these matters are not in our control. A better use of our time and energy is to focus on things that we have direct influence, primarily ourselves.

Tonight and tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the beginning of the “month of redemption,” the month in which Passover falls. This is a month of redemption on the national level (i.e. Passover) and on the personal level. It’s the season to jump to a whole new level in regards to personal development and spiritual achievement, not a month to get bogged down in world politics (no matter how important).

Whether it’s about resetting a relationship or rebooting your relationship with G-d; getting more organized or about being more consistent with your Torah study, this month gives us the ability to become a whole new person, in a good way!

Tune in to the energy of this month, tune in to the message of Passover and achieve a personal Exodus!

Nadiv: You taught me so much even though I hardly knew you

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I only met him a few times, so I didn’t really know him that well.

Nadiv was married to Goldie’s cousin and we moved out of Crown Heights a short time after their wedding.  But since his untimely and shocking passing at 30 years young this past Sunday night, I’ve gotten to know him that much better.

And it feels as though the world got a little darker.

Nadiv was synonymous with kindness and caring.  He always made people feel at ease; he was never pretentious, and always real.

I saw him last at my nephew's Bar Mitzvah, just a few weeks ago. We are thankfully blessed with many relatives and a lot of them were there; uncles, aunts, cousins and many who married into the family. We live out of town so naturally I don’t know everyone so well.

Nadiv was there and he came over to say hi and ask how things are going out in California. I’ll be honest, it took me a minute to remember who he was.

In a world where so often we easily ignore someone we don’t know, Nadiv was a bright light who showed us all how to treat everyone we meet; with warmth and genuine interest.

The world became a little darker when he passed away.

But the world doesn’t have to remain darker, we can choose to make it lighter.

In the week since Nadiv passed, his friends and acquaintances have rallied to raise over $1 million dollars to support his wife and four young children. The outpouring of generosity and support is a testament to who he was.

His passing inspired people to do so much good, it has made the world that much brighter. He lived his life with so much positivity, that even through his passing he made the world better.

Here's something that we can each consider: will my passing (after 120 years) motivate others for good? Am I living my life with such positivity that it motivates others for the better?

Let’s each pledge to reach out to others; let’s be more genuine and caring. And let us make the world that much lighter in the process.

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Please consider donating a few dollars to help support Nadiv’s family: www.nadivskids.org

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