Friday, April 16, 2021

My Heart Is In The East

דרש רבי שמלאי מפני מה נתאוה משה רבינו ליכנס לא"י וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך אלא כך אמר משה הרבה מצות נצטוו ישראל ואין מתקיימין אלא בא"י אכנס אני לארץ כדי שיתקיימו כולן על ידי As Israel celebrates its Independence Day, Jews worldwide reflect on what Zion and Jerusalem mean to them. For thousands of years, we have concluded our Pesach Seder and Yom Kippur Service with the uplifting words of “Next Year in Jerusalem.” Under the chuppah, as a couple starts a new life together and their hearts are filled with joy, there is a practice of breaking a glass to demonstrate that their joy is incomplete as long as Jerusalem is not rebuilt. The Talmud (original is quoted above) questions why Moshe so desperately wanted to enter the Land of Israel. For forty years, Moshe encouraged and inspired the Jewish People not to give up hope about the promise that they would enter the Land of Israel. In heartbreaking irony, as everyone would be crossing the Jordan to enter the Promised Land, Moshe would die at the border and not make it into sacred territory. The Talmud probes why Moshe desperately wanted to enter the Land of Israel? Was it to taste the delicious fruits and vegetables? Anyone that has been to Israel knows that the quality of the fruits and vegetables is totally superior to anywhere else! The Talmud responds that Moshe had a burning desire to enter the Land of Israel as one can fulfill multiple more Mitzvahs in Israel than any place in the world. The deeper meaning behind Moshe’s quest was that the more Mitzvahs a person fulfills, that enhances his ability to connect with G-d in this world. Moshe was teaching all of us this fundamental truth in Judaism. The ideal place for a Jew to live and spend their time in this world is the Land of Israel. Whatever one feels about the Zionist movement and the State of Israel, it is clear to anyone with eyes and ears that we are witnessing a miracle in front of our eyes. The rebirth of Torah and religious life that is taking place in our ancient homeland would be a mere fantasy to our great grandparents just a few generations back. We hope and pray for the day when we will all return to a rebuilt Beis Hamikdash in Jerusalem. Until than, while we may be physically here, our hearts remain back in Israel.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Making the Most of Everyday

2020 was a strange year in many ways that needs no elaboration. Anecdotally, there was quite an unusual film that was produced at the end of 2020 by Disney called Soul. For decades, the same mass media and entertainment conglomerate that brought us Cinderella and the Beauty and the Beast now presented us with a compelling story that focused on having a neshama/soul and the meaning of life. It's an animated film about this high school teacher Joe Gardner, a pianist and middle school music teacher living in New York City, who dreams of playing jazz professionally. His mother Libba insists that he make his teaching job full time, fearing for his financial security. One day, Joe learns of an opening in the band of jazz legend Dorothea Williams and auditions at a music club. On his way there, he accidentally falls into a manhole and dies. As his soul leaves this world and goes to the next world, he learns that jazz and piano aren't the sole purposes for his existence. By being obsessed by his dreams' lack of success, he has forgotten how to live a fulfilled life and therefore lost that spark. Joe is ultimately given a second chance to come back to this world and declares, "this time, I'm going to live every minute of it."  There is an essential lesson in making the most of every day. Each day that we are fortunate to live and breathe is a blessing, and we would be wise to take advantage of it. I believe that is also an important message behind the Mitzvah to count the Omer every day between Pesach and Shavuos. It is not enough to count the days. We must make our days count. Every single day is precious that is not returning. We can accomplish so much in just one day. The blessing that we make before counting the Omer of, אשר קדשנו במצותיו וצונו על ספירת העומר The translation is we acknowledge G-d, who sanctified us by providing us with His mitzvos to count the Omer. When we recite the blessing, I suggest that we pause and reflect on the tremendous gift we merit to experience another day and commit to utilizing it in the best way possible. King David put it best when he said, זֶה־הַיּוֹם עָשָׂה ה' נָגִילָה וְנִשְׂמְחָה בוֹ " This day G-d created, let us rejoice and be happy with it." Let us make the most of every day!

Friday, March 19, 2021

Do you hear the call?

We begin this week not only a new parsha but a new sefer as we begin to read from the Book of Vayikra (Leviticus). It opens up with the words “Vayikra el Moshe” or “ And He Called to Moshe”. Many of the commentaries have pointed out that though it’s obvious from the text that it’s G-d that called out to Moshe, it doesn’t explicitly say so as it typically does in other textual settings. The Nesivos Shalom quotes the Midrash that there is a heavenly voice that emanates from Mount Sinai on a daily basis and exhorts the Jewish people to repentance. He questions this by asking why can’t we hear this voice that’s emanating from Sinai and if we can’t hear it what’s the point of it being declared? He writes the following profound idea. There is a spiritual energy being released in the world on a daily basis. Some of us make the choice to capitalize on these sparks and internalize them into our soul. This enables us to embark on a journey on self-improvement in this world and allows our soul to connect to G-d in this finite and temporary world through meaningful Torah study, heartfelt prayer, and practicing acts of kindness. Some of us take a look at these spiritual sparks and even experience the spiritual energy that originates from Sinai and just take a pass for whatever reason. Then their souls lie dormant and become atrophied and dehydrated. Unfortunately, this can lead someone to feel that his life has no meaning or purpose. Can anyone say mid-life crisis? That is our challenge. The voice is calling each and every one of us. The only question is, who is going to answer the call? Have a Wonderful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, March 5, 2021

Part of a Bigger Whole

The ancient method of conducting a census was rather strange. Instead of counting heads or writing down the names of all people that were eligible to be counted, there was another unobvious method that carried by our ancestors in the desert after they left Egypt. As our Parsha teaches us, they were told to bring forward a half-shekel coin and contribute that into the public coffers. The amount of the coins contributed would reflect the number of people that needed to be counted. The question still remains to be asked as to why everyone was asked to contribute a half-shekel and not a complete shekel? There are many different answers to this question, and I want to suggest an approach I heard a while back. There are many different ways and paths within the parameters of Halacha of service to G-d. While many people walk down different paths, some prefer to emphasize their personal service or niche in one area more than another. Some areas that I referring to but obviously are not limited to include the study of Torah, prayer, practicing kindness, love of Israel, Kabbalah, Tikkun Olam, etc. We sometimes tend to get so preoccupied in our personal avoda/service that we might not appreciate what others are doing for the Jewish people and bring us closer to G-d. The Half- Shekel lesson teaches us that we are not alone in our service and relationship to G-d but rather part of a greater whole. While it may be wonderful that you are diligent and even excel at what you are doing to help the Jewish People, please remember that others focus on a different task on assisting Klal Yisrael. Just because they are not practicing the same task does not mean there should not be a recognition that we are just part of a greater whole of the Jewish people. For example, in an ideal world, the yeshiva students who are the spiritual guardians with their study of the Torah would be respecting the soldiers of the IDF who are are the physical guardians of the Jewish state. The opposite should be true as well. Sadly, that is not the case. Each side doesn’t recognize the achievement of the other. The lesson of the Half Shekel is more timeless than ever in reminding us that we are just part of a greater bigger picture.

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Faith Behind the Mask

As Jews worldwide celebrate Purim this year, we roughly mark the one-year anniversary of COVID making its mark here in the United States. In somewhat of a sad irony, we have been wearing masks all year and not just in observance of Purim. There is a powerful message that we learn from the Megillah that I believe has a special meaning this year in light of the challenges that we are experiencing. There are so many layers of challenges. I would like to focus on the challenge on our faith. We struggle to reconcile how a just and benevolent G-d can allow such pain and suffering to run unabated during a global pandemic. In one way or another, we have cried out and said -- “Almighty G-d, where are you”? The Rabbis make teach us a powerful lesson about Megilas Esther as it’s unique among all the Books of Tanach. There is not one mention of G-d’s name in the Megila. That sounds pretty strange. One might think that as one of the volumes of the Bible, it would have the name of G-d referenced in it even it was a mild reference. This omission was intentional. The lesson the Rabbis teach us is that the Purim miracle was done in a covert fashion yet it was still the hand of G-d that instrumental in orchestrating certain key events. For example, how likely that a young Jewish woman would end up being selected as the new queen? In fact, the Talmud, address this by stating, אסתר מן התורה מנין ואנכי הסתר אסתיר. The translation is, where there is a reference to Esther in the Torah. The response is a verse in the Book of Devarim which states that G-d says that I will conceal My face on that day. The larger message here is that miracle of Purim was unlike earlier miracles in Jewish history. The story with Mordechai and Esther could have read as a novel with a villain and the heroine coming through at the right time for her people. A bunch of coincidences that just happen to add up. The Rabbis teach us it is precisely for that reason the name of G-d is not mentioned in the Megilah. To teach us this supremely important fundamental tenet of Judaism: the presence of G-d may be concealed but His salvation may always be at a moment’s notice. There have been many long days and nights over the past year in which the tragic news piled up, yet we are a people of faith and believe in better days ahead. As we say in our prayers, מי שענה למרדכי ואסתר בשושן הבירה הוא יעננו, May the One who answered Mordechai and Esther in Shushan, answer us as well!!

Friday, February 19, 2021

Dealing with Donor Fatigue

One of the fixtures of modern Jewish life that has caused us fatigue is fundraisers. Every Jewish not-for-profit organization is inherently operating at a deficit, so the solution seems to be a fundraiser. There are so many worthy causes both locally and abroad and we get solicited all the time and that it results in donor fatigue. Someone commented that one of the benefits of COVID was that he and his spouse didn’t feel compelled to go to so many charity events. Those comments particularly saddened me. With the advent of the matching campaigns that are now quite popular, several of these campaigns reach out to me several times a month, and I understand the challenge of trying to stay motivated and financially afloat to participate in all these mitzvah opportunities. The truth is that we can learn an important lesson from the first fundraising campaign in Jewish history, and that is the construction of the Mishkan/Tabernacle. G-d in communicating the directive to Moshe says וְיִקְחוּ־לִי תְרוּמָה This is literally translated as you shall take for Me a donation. This sounds like a strange way of articulating a solicitation. Wouldn’t it be much more straight forward to say ויתנו לי or you shall give Me? The Rabbis throughout the millennia, have suggested a simple yet profound message. When we are presented with an opportunity to share our material resources for a good cause we ultimately are the beneficiary. Although it may appear that we are the benefactors, the opposite is true. The truth is that all the material wealth that we possess in this world is not truly ours, we are merely the stewards over that. Every once in a while there is an economic crisis in which we are rudely reminded of this truth (Can anyone say COVID?). G-d in His infinite wisdom gives us many opportunities to be givers and share our material resources with others. The Talmud in the Tractate of Bava Basra states that someone challenged Rabbi Akiva and asked him if G-d really loves the poor, why does He not directly provide them sustenance? His response was to allow us to do this Mitzvah. I think of this question in the modern language. If G-d loved the shuls, yeshivas, day schools, Bais Yaakovs, Mikvaos, etc., why is there always such a dearth of funds available? Why are there so many fundraising campaigns? The answer in 2021 is just the same as it was during the time of the Mishkan and during the time of Rabbi Akiva -- to allow us the opportunity to give.

Monday, February 15, 2021

A Lesson In Gratitude

There have been a handful of books that have made a significant impact on me in the journey of life. One of those is Let There Be Rain by Rabbis Finkelman and Wallerstein on the topic of gratitude. For several months last year, we studied a daily lesson after morning minyan and I was immeasurably enriched by it. Just waking up every morning and realizing everything is a privilege that we have to be appreciative and thankful for is invigorating. Not only that but a person that is feeling grateful is full of happiness as he appreciates the blessings in life and anticipates that life will not always deliver perfection. The opposite viewpoint would be to view life through the lens of entitlement. A person that wakes up with that perspective and views everything as a right and something that he is entitled to leads to being ungrateful when things inevitably will not be perfect. Furthermore, this leads to unhappiness and disillusionment with others as he expects everyone in his life to always deliver perfection with no margin of error. We find a great lesson on gratitude in this week’s Parsha. The Torah teaches that the Treif Meat is prohibited for consumption. Surprisingly, the Torah does not just advise as to the prohibited status of treif meat but also in the manner in which one should dispose of the forbidden food. “ To the dog, you must throw it” instructs the verse in Parshas Mishpatim. It seems rather odd that the Torah takes pains of how to dispose of this forbidden food, especially considering that such advice is not dispensed with other forbidden foods. Rashi provides some necessary commentary on this rather bizarre passage. When the Jewish people had left Egypt, it was such a powerful moment that even the dogs did not bark. That is quite unusual since dogs normally react and bark to the slightest unusual occurrence and there were several million people leaving in one night. Yet, this miracle occurred that even the dogs stood to attention and didn’t utter a peep. In recognition of this, dogs were rewarded that are the beneficiaries of treif meat since it is prohibited for consumption by Jews. It still seems a bit of a stretch to somehow give a dog a piece of meat in 2019 in recognition and gratitude of what another dog may have accomplished over 3,300 years ago! I believe the exercise in practicing gratitude with the gesture to the dog is primarily for ourselves. We become more cognizant of what others are doing for our benefit when we practice gratitude towards others. The Torah teaches that even when those practices are directed towards our four-legged friends they are nonetheless valuable in making us more aware of the need to be grateful.

Friday, February 5, 2021

The Life of Day One

It's been some time since the word Amazon is no longer immediately associated with being the largest rainforest in the world. It's been just about 25 years since Jeff Bezos started selling books online from his garage. Today, the word Amazon reflects dominance in the marketplace that arguably no other company in the world can claim. There is practically no industry or area of life in that Amazon does not have a significant role. Mr. Bezos also has a net worth of nearly cool 200 billion dollars. For these reasons and more, it was more than newsworthy this week when Bezos announced his retirement from the position of CEO. He is now transitioning to the role of Executive Chairman. In the letter released to his employees informing them of this big news, he concluded his statement with the following words. "It remains Day 1." That seems like a bizarre way to conclude a special announcement. What kind of code word was that? Day 1 is a fundamental philosophy that has guided Amazon from a small garage to becoming one of the world's most dominant companies. Day 1 is about keeping the same passion and enthusiasm that a startup has. Day 1 means that Amazon will always act like a startup. Bezos has argued to his team that the opposite of Day 1 is Day 2. That is not just a cute statement. He wrote, "Day 2 means stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day One at Amazon." The notion of always maintaining a Day One approach in life easier said than done. That is so challenging, as we know from any area of life that complacency has a corrosive effect on the things we cherish most in life. From the state of our marriages to our relationship with G-d and His Torah, the initial Day One experience wears off rather quickly, and we struggle to find meaning in these essential areas. Inspiration and passion fade to mindlessly performing rituals out of habit or mouthing the words of prayer. The Day 2 experience has taken hold of our lives in many ways and we walk around feeling empty and unfulfilled. This week we once again read about the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. The most extraordinary event in human history occurred when an entire nation heard the Divine word and accepted to be His ambassadors for the mission of spreading Godliness and holiness in the world. That was our Day 1 moment. In the Shema, we read the following words אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם. This is translated as "that I command you today." Wasn't the giving of the Torah thousands of years ago? (The giving of the Torah occurred 3,333 years ago). The meaning of the word הַיּוֹם/today is very simple. It means that we should always work on a Day 1 philosophy in our Judaism. The mountain of a Day 1 life is not an easy one to climb. It's important to remember that just as with Amazon, the alternative to Day 1 in our relationships and commitment to faith is Day 2, and that's a life of indefinite unfulfillment.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Reminder of the Obvious

Certain fundamental values often get overlooked or don't get enough attention. That is not necessarily because people don't believe in the matter or disagree with it but because it may be so evident that it gets overlooked. Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato (1707-1746), in his magnum opus, the Mesilas Yesharim, wrote the following words in his introduction. "I have written this work not to teach people what they don't know but rather to remind them of what they already know and clearly understand. However, to the degree that these rules are well known and their truth self evident, they are routinely overlooked or people forget about them altogether." One area that falls into this category, in my opinion, is gratitude. There are so many people in our lives that contribute to our well being that frequently get overlooked. We need to open our eyes and be more cognizant of all the people that make all sorts of contributions. One group of people we tend to overlook, I believe, are the maintenance personnel of our organizations. These men and women work hard to keep our facilities clean and neat, so we can come to shul and have a pleasant davening experience. They wash our floors and clean our toilets without any fanfare or bringing any attention to themselves. Yet, they provide an essential service for our benefit, and they deserve to be recognized and appreciated. The fact they get paid and compensated for their work is not a reason for us not to appreciate them. For this reason, I was very glad that we had the opportunity this week to publicly acknowledge and recognize Ariadna and Maribel, who are responsible for cleaning the shul and school. During COVID, there has been an increased workload on these two women, and they have been working hard to get our campus not only clean but safe. I once commented to Ariadna that we don't view her job as merely cleaning the building but rather as someone who brings joy into our campus with her work. Rabbi Horowitz made a public presentation in the presence of all the students of Torah Academy about the importance of appreciating and recognizing these women for all their hard work. As I was listening to him, I thought that this was a most valuable lesson to pass along to our children and students. It's important for us to reflect on how many people in our lives enhance our quality of life even in a small way and for us to make a more concerted effort to recognize and appreciate those individuals. Gratitude is not just a nice thing to practice. As Rabbi Luzzato wrote, sometimes we need a reminder of the most important values in Judaism.

Friday, January 22, 2021

Making Deposits

No matter what side of the political aisle you stand on, this week was quite significant. The changing of administrations is always a big deal, but this year, it was quite the event. For the sake of the country, we hope and pray that our new President and his administration successfully respond to a nation in crisis. I have observed how many people were so emotionally invested in the recent election season. Declarations such as "we will not have a country if the other candidate gets elected" were heard throughout the long election cycle. While it's essential to participate in the democratic process and advocate our voice to elected officials, it can become all-consuming. Now that the election and recent inauguration are in the rearview mirror, I believe it's important to reflect on how and where we invest so much emotional energy. I would like to humbly recommend that perhaps we pivot away much of our emotional energy to the relationships and people in our lives that actually can benefit from it. We can get a much better return on investment from the time we spend on cultivating and improving these relationships. I am referring to the most important relationships in our lives that include our spouses, parents, and children. With our spouses, there is a wide range of how successful or not a marriage can be. It can vary from excellent and hitting on all cylinders to a failed union that's headed towards divorce. In the middle are a vast number of marriages that have some sort of peaceful coexistence. The couple may share a house and even a bedroom, but they might be coexisting and not thriving. I think it's worthwhile to reflect on how we all can go from good to great in this most important area. I want to share an important lesson in this area I learned from John Gottman, a noted expert in this field. He describes that it's important to build a joint Emotional Bank Account for your marriage. Every time you are generous with your spouse's feelings, you are depositing in the Emotional Bank Account. And when you turn away from your spouse, you make a withdrawal. Like a real bank account, a zero balance is trouble, and a negative balance is the real danger zone. An Emotional Bank Account grows when spouses make more deposits than withdrawals. The difference between happy and unhappy couples is how they manage their Emotional Bank Account. When the Emotional Bank Account is in the red, spouses tend to question each other's intentions and feel disconnected, or even lonely. But when the Emotional Bank Account is in the green, spouses tend to give each other the benefit of the doubt during the conflict. They keep their relationship in a positive perspective. A withdrawal from the Emotional Bank Account is inevitably going to happen with all the stress in life. That is why I believe it is essential to be aware of the regular need to make these necessary deposits. This week, we observed that presidents come and go (every four years or eight years), and our influence on that process is rather limited. Let's refocus our attention on the most important relationship in our lives where our investment into the Emotional Bank Account can really make a difference.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Finding Our Voice

The story of our people forming into a nation comes into sharp focus in this week’s Parsha. G-d told Moshe to communicate a message of hope, optimism, and redemption. G-d communicates the loftiest message of what would be known later as the four expressions of redemption. The Exodus of Egypt would be followed by G-d formally taking us as his nation and the Jewish People entering the Holy Land as its eternal homeland. Just reading this thousand of years later sometimes gives me goosebumps. Moshe arrives to tell his oppressed flock this uplifting message. The reaction he received was terribly disappointing. The Torah teaches us that the people didn’t listen to Moshe from shortness of breath and from hard labor. The response to this overwhelming positive message is nothing short of astounding. A nation that had been slaves for so long and suffered much oppression was finally turning the corner, and they were unable to hear the message of redemption! The condition of shortness of breath is the result of a person living in a hyper stressed environment. A person suffers not only in an emotional manner but also spiritually and physically. This high level of stress and anxiety can become so overwhelming that we lose our ability to listen and process positive news in our daily lives. I believe there is a parallel in our current lives of the condition referred to as shortness of breath. America is a nation under stress. The real-time images of Capitol Hill are nothing short of traumatic. We are witnessing armed troops displaying a very heavy presence in our nation’s capital. All this is to ensure a peaceful transition of power as a new administration comes into office. It was not too long ago if someone saw the images, they might conclude this was in Afghanistan or Iraq. No, this is the United States of America in 2021. No matter which side of the political fence one is on, this turn of events should be saddening for all. Another image coming out of Washington is that all lawmakers go are wearing masks as they conduct their legislative business. That’s another grim reminder of the pandemic and the toll it’s taking on our lives. The accumulative effect of armed troops and masked Members of Congress contributes to our collective state of shortness of breath. Our ancestors ultimately prevailed, and their state shortness of breath proved to be a bump in the road that they overcame. Their journey to redemption was uneven and messy. Their prayers and faith helped them be resilient in their struggles as they overcame their shortness of breath. Let us continue to pray for America's welfare that it be resilient in its state of shortness of breath.

Friday, January 8, 2021

The Unthinkable Occurs in America

The unthinkable has occurred in America. The United States of America, long revered as the beacon of freedom, liberty, and democracy, has a moral stain that will not easily go away. A hallmark feature of democracy is a peaceful transition of power, and our great sadness is that it did not occur this week. As our adversaries around the globe have pointed out, it will be unacceptable for America to lecture any country about the need to have a peaceful transition in their government. The millions of people worldwide who have always looked to America for inspiration in their own quest for liberty and freedom are dispirited and saddened. That is only one consequence of many that may be felt for years into the future. It was traumatic for us to see the citadel of liberty-- the United States Capitol run over by a violent mob that intended to disrupt the legislative proceedings of certifying the presidential election results. It is not just enough to condemn the violence or the individuals that ransacked the Capitol. Moments like these do not occur in a vacuum and require some reflection as to how we got here. We must all undergo a national exercise of soul searching and reflect on what areas of improvement we can all focus on to move forward in a positive way. These are some areas of inflection for me that I would like to share. Two wrongs do not make a right: I found it distressing to hear from people that while this violence may be inappropriate, there is a double standard in acts of rioting or violence by other groups that are tolerated. It's important to acknowledge and take responsibility for any situation in life without equivocating or making any qualifying statements. The first King of Israel, Shaul, was not removed from his position simply because he erred in the battle with Amaleik. It was because he was reticent to take responsibility. His successor, King David, committed multiple infractions and remained King for forty years because he was able to take responsibility for his actions. The Death of Nuance: Over the last several years, as we have slipped more into a caustic polarized environment, the art of nuance has been a casualty. Many issues have become binary choices. One is forced to choose between unlimited gun rights with no limitations or a mandatory confiscation of firearms. One is forced to choose between not allowing any immigrants into the country or complete open borders. As a student of Halacha, I have learned the importance of nuance, even in the most sacred Jewish obligations. One is obligated to fast on Yom Kippur or keep the Shabbos but some situations would exempt one from these Mitzvahs. A casualty of the rhetoric and charged discourse has been thoughtful and a nuanced approach to complex issues, and we must work on improving the nature of the discourse. Losing with Dignity: Nobody likes to lose or be associated with the losing side but the reality in life is that we don't always get everything we desire. The Orthodox Jewish community overwhelmingly voted for President Trump. There was considerable disappointment in many of our circles when he did not prevail at the ballot box. I have heard many voices in our community of despair as if somehow our republic has entered a death spiral with no hope of redemption. At a moment like this, I recall the story of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai, who at the throes of the destruction of our Second Temple in Jerusalem, had a climactic meeting with the Roman general Vespasian. During the meeting, Vespasian was informed about the Roman Emperor's death and the authorities in Rome nominated him to become the new emperor. Vespasian was impressed with Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai and asked him if there was anything that he can do for him. The Rabbi responded with three seemingly unimportant requests to which Vespasian agreed to. For about two thousand years, a nagging question has been why didn't the Rabbi ask the new emperor to call off the siege of Jerusalem and spare the Temple ?? I once heard a powerful insight from Rabbi Yisroel Reisman to this question. The Rabbi was teaching us a powerful lesson that is hard to internalize. He was teaching us how to lose with dignity. Rabbi Yochanan realized that Jerusalem was already doomed to its fate, and there was no way to reverse that catastrophic event. He also felt it was imperative at that moment to be pragmatic and gracious in defeat. My favorite part of NFL games is what occurs immediately after the game. The losing coach congratulates the winning coach and they usually offer each other warm words of encouragement for a good game played. In my opinion, the post-game ritual should be modeled by all of us in all areas of life. A silver lining to this traumatic season can be if we use this as an inflection point. It is not by looking outwards and pointing fingers at different people or groups but by looking inward and reflecting on what we can all do to engage in healing and reconciliation.

My Heart Is In The East

דרש רבי שמלאי מפני מה נתאוה משה רבינו ליכנס לא"י וכי לאכול מפריה הוא צריך או לשבוע מטובה הוא צריך אלא כך אמר משה הרבה מצות נצטוו ישראל ...