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.

When Life is Messy


Look outside and find a beautiful tree - in our region there’s bound to be many. Notice the majestic trunk reaching up to the sky, pay attention to its strong branches. Even the trees that have lost their leaves by this time of year are impressive.


But for a tree to be strong and impressive above ground, it needs solid roots below ground. Have you ever seen what roots of a tree look like? They don’t look pretty or impressive at all. In fact, the roots are often asymmetrical, haphazard and tangled. The epitome of disarray.


Yet it’s specifically this set of messy roots underground, that support the beautiful and majestic tree above ground.


Life is often messy. While we might imagine some perfect existence, it’s never the way it plays out. But the setbacks and frustrations don’t need to define us, they can be the roots to our beautiful tree. Haphazard and messy - but beneath the ground.


Consider all the frustrations, the mistakes, the dead ends and the losses we each experience as roots. Each experience provides us with a more solid foundation for the future. It gives us more support for the next twist life throws our way.


The next time you find yourself navigating one of those maddening parts of life, picture the strong, beautiful and enduring life you are growing into.



Am I Enough?


“Rebbe, when does one decide if one has enough?”


This question was posed to the Rebbe by a successful businessman. “We’ve sold out our business, we have an offer now that they want to sell it back to us, if we want,” the individual explained. And then he continued, “And I’m trying to understand: When should one feel he has enough for himself and his family.”


The Rebbe’s answer surprised him, “If you have experience in business, you must use it. If it is better to use it in the same business, or only in a new business, it depends on the conditions of the market, and it depends on the character of the person.”


The conversation continued a little longer and the man left, his perception of the world changed forever.


While it might seem like a brief conversation, almost in passing, the profundity of the message cannot be overemphasized.


As we wrap up Chanukah, with its emphasis on kindling the Menorah and its representation of adding light. Most people consider the message to be one of adding in matters of holiness and spirituality - which it certainly is.


However, that’s not the entire story.


Each and every one of us has something to contribute. If our life has provided us with certain skills or experiences, we have a responsibility to use those in a positive manner.


While it may be tempting to retire and pursue our personal favorite pastimes; as long as we are alive we have the responsibility - to ourselves and to the world - to continue sharing what we have with others and the world at large.


In other words, our life matters - no matter who you are or what you do. You have a purpose and mission.


During these last few hours of Chanukah, let’s consider how we can bring what we have to better the world.


Chanukah is the most important holiday

 Chanukah is the most important.jpg

Chanukah is the most important holiday on the Jewish calendar. More meaningful than Yom Kippur and more significant than Passover. 

Give it a few months, Passover will be the most important. And when the time for Yom Kippur comes around, it is clearly the most meaningful holiday on the Jewish calendar. 

But right now, Chanukah takes center stage. 

Yes, Chanukah is a post-biblical holiday but there is nothing minor about it at all. Especially today, when the world seems so dark, the message of Chanukah has all the more relevance. 

Let’s count some of the ways:

1) The name of the holiday, Chanukah, is derived from the word Chinuch, which means inauguration; Chanukah commemorates the re-inauguration of the Holy Temple after its defilement by the Syrian-Greeks. No matter how bleak things may seem, with sincere dedication and commitment it can always be turned around.

2) The same word, Chinuch, is the Hebrew term for education. Chanukah is about initiating and educating our family - and ourselves - in the ways of Torah and holiness.

3) Chanukah also teaches us the power of light to overcome the darkness. Darkness is not chased away with a stick, it disappears with the simple act of illumination. In our own lives, don’t fight the darkness - spread  light instead.

4) One light is good for today but not enough for tomorrow. Each day we have to grow and increase our efforts in the realm of goodness and kindness. Don’t be satisfied with who you were yesterday because today it is obsolete.

And of course, to implement any of this requires a focused Maccabee-like attitude, not allowing external societal pressures to dictate how we live our life. 

And there is so much more! There is so much significance connected to Chanukah, much more than latkes and dreidels. Let us spend the holiday of Chanukah applying these messages in our day to day life.

Don’t let anyone tell you that Chanukah is just a minor holiday!

Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanukah! 

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