Thursday, August 22, 2013

Is there Another Way of Looking At This ?

The following story is fiction and being used to demonstrate a point.

Sarah is a woman who prides herself on being conscious about nutrition and exercise. She goes to great lengths to provide her family with meals and snacks that are nutritious and tasty. One can find lots of fresh vegetables at her dinner table. In fact, there is a fresh salad that is the first thing the family enjoys at the start of every dinner. That is followed by a serving of lean protein such as grilled chicken along with a starch that is whole grain and roasted veggies. The beverage department consists of juice and water. Soda is a four letter word in this home and not to be found even in its diet form. There is an allowance made once a week at this table and that is dessert, of course. Sarah serves some pie and ice cream in moderation every Wednesday evening. She and her family savor these delectable delights and are the highlight of their week. 

It makes Sarah feel better that the family takes a walk after dinner to burn of some of those calories. The family begrudgingly follows Sarah on her 20 minute walk after the Wednesday evening dinner.

On a particular Wednesday, just as Sarah was serving hot chocolate cake with some rich ice cream on the side, there was a knock at the door. The Mother in Law had arrived just to say hello. When she saw Sarah serving the dessert to her family, she began lecturing her on the importance of good nutrition and to keep sweets away from her family.

Now, let's pause and reflect for a moment. The truth of the matter is that technically the critic is correct. The dessert that was being served had no nutritional value and full of empty calories. Yet, when you take the entire situation into account it is clear that the dessert is a small component of the overall menu and lifestyle choice of Sarah and her family. When assesing a situation and making a judgment, we must see the forest and not just one tree and then come to a conclusion.

I have this thought as we study the mitzva of Bikkurim in this weeks parsha. The Torah teaches us the mitzva for the farmer to bring up the first of his harvest as an expression of gratitude to God. The Torah states, "You shall rejoice in all that is good". Was everything in their life good? Didn’t they have their fair share stress and challenges like bills to pay? 

We are being taught an important lesson. We must look at the big picture and realize despite the challenges and setbacks they we are confronted with -- It is all good. The question is not on what the reality on the ground is but rather what is our reaction to it.

Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

In G-d We Trust ?

There was once a rabbi that was talking between mincha and maariv about the importance of prayer and how that enables one to have a relationship with G-d. One of his congregants responded "enough about G-d -- let's start services".

That is not my favorite joke, but it highlights a sobering thought.

As we find ourselves in month of Elul, it is important to reassess our most important priorities. I think something that has got to be on this list is our relationship with G-d. In this case, I am also (although not exclusively) referring to the people that live committed lives as Orthodox Jews. We are so focused on keeping the the mitzvos (which is a wonderful thing), but do we think about who authored these laws and why we are engaged in them ?
We have to take a step back and realize how we got to this point. The Creator of the world created Man in order to have a relationship with Him and that we can be recipients of His kindness. The vehicle we have in our lives to have that connection is the Torah and Mitzvos (good deeds). Yet, sometime we are not focused on the ultimate goal which is obviously having a meaningful relationship with our Creator.

We are reminded of this every day during Elul at the conclusion of services. It is customary to recite Chapter 27 of Psalms. King David writes in this chapter " I have one request and that is what I truly desire: That I should dwell in house of G-d all the days of my life and see His pleasantness". 

The question that I have -- is that even on our radar screen? How prominent in our daily thoughts is this concept? When you consider doing a mitzva, is the G-d factor part of the equation? 

On occasion it is important to remind ourselves of the most important things in life. I think having this discussion is one of those topics.

Please share your thoughts.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

How Can I Find The Love ?

There are many relationships that can come to mind when we think of it being rooted in a foundation of love. There are two people that have strong feelings for each other and will express those feelings in a natural unconditional manner. This can be for a married couple or parent/child relationship. Sometimes this expression of love seems to be going in a one way direction. The parent that wakes up at 3 am feeds her infant is expressing her unconditional love toward her infant, despite being awakened at this hour.

There is another relationship that exists that is rooted in pure unconditional love. Arguably, his love is more intense or powerful than any other that exists. That is the relationship between God and Man. From the time of Adam, God has been there for us enabling us to succeed in his great, green earth. We are told in the Torah You are Children to Lord your God. He has been there for us allowing us to get on our two feet and helping us get up when we have our nasty falls.

However, like all relationships this one is imperfect. There are times when it gets quite rocky. We grow apart and become distant from one another. We may not feel the love from God and lose our enthusiasm to connect with Him with Torah, prayer and practicing kindness to others.

There is a time when reconciliation is appropriate and no better time to embark on this path than the month of Elul that we find ourselves in. The word Elul in Hebrew is the acronym for “I am for beloved and My beloved is for Me". God is telling us that while we may have drifted apart over the course of the year --- there is no better time to straighten things out. This is obviously easier said than done. This takes time and effort but as with anything meaningful, it is very rewarding and brings inner peace and contentment. This requires us to acknowledge that we have been the recipients of love and figure out how we can demonstrate our love and commitment. For some of us that may be studying Torah, for others that may mean having a few meaningful minutes engaged in prayer. Hopefully, this can get the relationship back on track before Rosh Hashanah which is rapidly approaching us.
 It all starts by asking ourselves -- How Can I Find The Love ?

I wish everyone a meaningful and uplifting Elul.

Please share your thoughts.

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

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