Friday, September 22, 2023

Returning to Yourself

The Shabbos between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is famous for being referred to as Shabbos Shuva. The basic reason for this name is that the Haftorah that is read begins with this word, Shuvah. The truth of the matter is not only is the word Shuva the root of the famous word or idea Teshuva, it is a fundamental idea in Judaism. The meaning of Shuva is return. The puzzling thing about understanding Shuvah or returning is where exactly are we returning to? Did we get lost in any particular place to return to? As far as I can tell, there is no need to return anywhere if I am not lost. The idea of Shuva touches on a much deeper concept regarding body and soul. Our bodies and souls conflict with one another throughout our lives. The body craves earthly pleasures since it is just a product of the earth. However, the soul craves spiritual pleasures since it is a product of the heavens where Almighty G-d resides. The more the body is taken care of and nurtured, the more the soul is neglected, the soul will feel empty and shallow. If this continues for a while, a person may live with many external riches but feel an internal emptiness precisely because his soul has been neglected. Can anyone say mid-life crisis? This is where Shuvah comes in. It's a message to tell your soul to return to its calling of connecting to the service of G-d. The soul ultimately wants to connect, but the distractions of the materialistic world get in the way. Shuvah says don't pay attention to the materialistic distractions. Just let your soul connect to its original mission. It would be a great message all year round but especially poignant a few days before Yom Kippur. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Friday, September 1, 2023

Lethal Hate

The lethal mix of unadulterated hate and unrestricted access for virtually anyone to obtain assault rifles reached our backyard. It was with great sadness that we learned of an individual who killed three people in a racially motivated attack. The murder weapon had insignias of swastikas etched on it. Let that sink in slowly. In 2023, someone from Clay County is so committed to Nazi ideology that he can murder three innocent African American members in broad daylight while they are shopping for groceries. It's essential to stand in solidarity with the local African-American community as they are reeling and hurting from this awful tragedy. As a Jewish community, unfortunately, we have too often been at the other end of similar tragedies, and we have also been forced to bury members of our community because of this unadulterated hate. In 1996, there was a wave of suicide bombings in Jerusalem on the busy Jaffa Street. Particularly, there were coordinated bombings on the number 18 bus line. I recall hearing from someone in Jerusalem at the time they were not concerned for their safety as they did not travel on the number 18 bus! Obviously, that is a sad perspective that reflects one that does not grasp the severity of the situation. Similarly, it's important to understand that haters who target one minority group express hostility to our community. Burying our heads in the sand may provide temporary comfort, but it's an unwise method to address reality. Hateful ideology continued to kill Jews in Israel this month, as five Jews were murdered in terror attacks in the month of August alone. My intent here is not to cause worry or depression but rather to open our eyes to debunk any illusion that we are immune from hate that can cause harm. As our patriarch Yaakov taught, in the face of threats, one must adopt a three-tiered approach of focusing on prayer, diplomacy, and self-defense. Let us double down on embracing this formula as we continue to walk between the raindrops. Have a Peaceful Shabbos, Rabbi Yaakov Fisch

Most Destructive Word in the English Language

I have always been intrigued by the “word of the year.” This last year of 2023, Merriam Webster designated “authentic” as the WOTY (word of ...