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.

Elevated dish washing


Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

What is the best way to express a deep and passionate love? Sometimes the answer may well be by taking out the garbage and washing the dishes. Roses and chocolates may be nice, but they're superficial; the real expression of love is in the simple and even mundane acts that you do for the other.

Last week we read about the awesome revelation at Mount Sinai. Together as a people we witnessed direct divine revelation; no other group of people in history can lay claim to such an experience.

This week, though, we immediately learn about "earthly" laws: laws associated with business and dispute, laws of damages and laws of courts, laws of false promises and bribery. What a contrast - after being in such an inspired and elevated state, to deal with such mundane matters!

When we study Judaism a little deeper, we learn that although the elevated and inspired state is important, even more significant is to translate that inspiration into practice. The greater the inspiration and connection to G-d, the more profoundly affected should our physical lives be as well.


The purpose of the giving of the Torah and the revelation at Mount Sinai was not to show us how to escape this physical reality. The purpose of the giving of the Torah and the revelation at Mount Sinai was to show us how to elevate our physical life and to infuse our life with holiness.

This week's Torah portion is the 18th portion in the Torah. 18 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word Chai, which means life. The Torah is not only relevant in the Synagogue, the Torah is relevant to every part of our life. It's not just about infusing Judaism into our life, it's about living a Jewish life.

Super Bowl and Super Women

Superbowl super women.jpg

Despite the 49ers missing the cut, almost everyone I know plans to watch the Super Bowl this Sunday. It makes sense after all since the Super Bowl is the largest and most participated in annual religious experience in the US. 

Think about it: Just like a religion, it has its own rituals, and just like a religion, there are varying degrees of observance. There are those who not only watch the game, but spend an entire weekend at pre and post game parties; kind of like the people who spend the entire Yom Kippur in the synagogue. Then you have the people who just watch the game itself; that’s like those who just come to hear the shofar on Rosh Hashanah (or just for Yizkor on Yom Kippur). You even have the people who just watch the commercials - like the crowd that comes just for the kiddush (or the JFK Club as it’s called)!

That’s right, the Religion of Sports has, for many American Jews, replaced their Jewish heritage. It provides community and a goal to work toward, and no doubt the euphoric sense of being in a stadium packed with fans can easily compete with the most inspiring religious experience.

Despite numerous invitations, this Sunday I’ll be watching a completely different spectacle. I’ll be watching the annual banquet of the International Shluchos Conference. 

In case you need it, here’s a brief primer of some Chabad lingo: Chabad rabbis are actually called “Shluchim” which means emissaries (or in the singular, “shliach”). The feminine version of the word is “Shluchos” (or in the singular, Shlucha).

The secret of Chabad are the Shluchos; they are the ones who keep things on track and on mark. In Judaism it has always been known that the woman is the one who truly sets the tone in the home and this is certainly true in a Chabad House. 

The Shluchos are the ones who run the household, make sure the kids (and their husbands) are fed and dressed - all while giving classes, running community programs, meeting privately with people and ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks.

The Shluchos are the ultimate givers; they share themselves and their lives in heroic ways. Ensuring that everyone is cared for and remembered. 

I find the contrast between these two major events to be very significant and actually highlights divergent approaches to life. 

The way I see it, the primary difference between the Torah centered lifestyle and the lifestyle promoted in popular culture is this: The Torah focuses on giving and the pop culture value system is based on taking.

What do you think, is there something wrong with taking? Is there something wrong with watching out for your needs?

Yes and no. While we certainly need to take care of ourselves there’s something unsettling about taking, to the point that it makes us uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s because man is hardwired to be a giver, to contribute. Of course we have to take care of ourselves, but what is the end goal? Why are we taking care of ourselves? Just so that we can live a little longer and be a taker for more time? Or is there something more?

More to life there definitely is, but the secret is not looking out for yourself with more passion - it’s doing more for another. That’s how we fulfill our purpose in life.

The Torah advocates giving, both to G-d and to man. Doing a mitzvah because that’s what G-d wants from us, not just because it feels like the right thing to do. Helping another in times of need, not to varnish our resume or be awarded the “Humanitarian of the Year” award, but rather just to help them.

The most ironic part of it is, that the secret to finding happiness is not by getting what you want from life, it’s by giving of yourself to others. In other words, the more you focus on giving, both to man and G-d, the happier your life will be. 

So this Sunday afternoon, whether you watch the Super Bowl or the Shluchos banquet, take some time to consider how to strengthen your giving muscle. It will make your life so much richer, deeper and more satisfying. Even watching the Super Bowl, the epitome of pop culture, can be a giving opportunity. So go ahead, try giving instead of taking; you’ll be happier for it!


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. 

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Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash 

They say never discuss religion or politics with family; I think we need to actually add another “untouchable”: Apple vs. Android. Many people are uncomfortable speaking about things that, although truly important to them, they feel may not be "politically correct" to share.

This week's Torah portion, however, advances a strong case for sharing the greatness that you experience. It speaks about the final stage of the Exodus, the miracle of the Splitting of the Reed Sea. But it doesn't just mention it, the Torah records how the Jewish people, led by Moshe, sang songs of thanksgiving for this miracle. In addition to recognizing G-d's miracles it also served to publicize them. 

Chassidic thought teaches that a primary purpose in life is to reveal the G-dliness within the physical reality. This is accomplished primarily through fulfilling the Mitzvot and recognizing G-d's existence in the world.

When we see something, we should say something. When we marvel at the beauty of G-d's creations or experience miraculous events, we shouldn't keep it to ourselves, rather we should share it with others.

I'm not advocating changing Judaism into a proselytizing religion, but I do think it's integral that we ensure that we are knowledgeable and confident enough to be able to share it. After all, we have a responsibility to share it with our children and raise them to be knowledgeable and engaged Jews. And when our non Jewish friends or coworkers ask us why we do this or why we don't believe that,it wouldn’t hurt to be able to answer properly (not just saying that's the way we do it).

The very first step is to study and be knowledgeable. Get started now, there's no time like the present.


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