Thursday, April 24, 2014

Chesed of gevurah

Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Day one- Chesed she- bechesed

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Mindfulness or playfulness ?

Irony of ironies. The emerging Chassidic movement spearheaded by the baal Shem Tov, concentrates All of its energy on the tzaddik. The holy man. A bridge between man and g-d. The alter rebbe, the first rebbe of chabad comes along and refocuses the movement away from the tzaddik,back to man. Not even extraordinary men. Average people like you and I. People who struggle daily to feel connected to Hashem. He knows that each day brings turbulence in its wake and gently reassures us that this is ok. The Alter rebbe,a spiritual coach truly in touch with reality acknowledges that our go to setting is our human awareness. Nevertheless he assures us that our Neshama G-dly consciousness is our truest most authentic self. Behaving in tandem with that truer reality is easier said than done however. The alter rebbe teaches us about some powerful strategies, tools that prove invaluable in best managing this duality. One of the most important ones in one word. Daas. Not to be confused with Richard Alpert,a Jew who embraced Hinduism and renamed himself Ram Daas! The sadness/irony of that is that he based his best selling book "be here now" on Hindu teachings, when his new Hindu name means exactly that in Hebrew. Mindfulness! The alter rebbe teaches that us to think about our life choices and their consequences. Constantly. Mindfulness for the alter rebbe includes developing discipline. It means we don't simply obey our every desire. We train ourselves to analyze why we want this. We train ourselves to ask the desire for ID ! May I see your ID please ? Are you self hatred masquarading as self love? Are you a behavior that is a manifestion of my higher self or lower self? Are you about my ego and to be ignored or an action that is a necessary step in filling my Life's mission and purpose? Are you a behavior that ties me to a sadness in my past or are you an action that leads me to a joyous future? Are you an action that is narcissistic and selfish or are you a pleasure that is holy and pure? These are all Daas questions. Sometimes they can be exhausting! That's why we have Purim. It's a reminder that being Jewish must also be about striking the right balance between continued emotional growth and celebrating ourselves exactly as we are! We must be cautious not to sacrifice our playfulness on the altar of our mindfulness. So on Purim we say to ourselves " I love you just the way you are "! Purim is a time out from the critical but often grueling practice of daas - mindfulness On Purim we are told to get to a state of Ad Delo Yada . On one level that means we become tipsy enough to confuse Haman and Mordechai I think there might be a deeper suggestion here. Purim unlike Chanukah is not about the struggle for light and spirituality. . Yaddah is daas Yaddah is mindfulness . Purim we are all about vanahapochu, experiencing opposites. It's about putting the struggle on hold for just one day. On Purim we say LO YADA- no daas !!!!!!! A brief (responsible) harmless shift from the ongoing struggle of mindfulness to a letting go state of mindlessness. Happy Purim !!! Rabbi Yossi

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The fast of Rashi

I woke up early this morning,before the fast began and shared a pre dawn cup of coffee with one of my daughters. It felt like I was cheating the fast. I don't care. I'm not fasting for Hashem or for Esther today in any case. Today my fast is the fast of Rashi. I know I'm not alone in this. There are many whose lives end tragically. before their time. I can't possibly mourn them all. This one is family though. Shushan is Alpharetta Georgia. The lofty soul of A fellow Shlucha Rashi minkowitz,only thirty seven years old has been snatched from us,leaving eight children and a beloved rabbi husband engulfed in a modern day Purim catastrophe. This strikes deeply and viscerally for our entire community. Hirshi, As you continue to plunge even deeper into the unimaginable abyss of your grief,please know that you will not grieve alone. Though the full weight of this loss will be yours to bear for the rest of your life,know that you will not have to bear it alone. I pray that you will find the strength to carry on despite the gaping void, for your children's sake,but know that your loss has left a collective void in our communal hearts as well. Today there are not thousands of chabad houses all over the world. there is only one, in Alpharetta Georgia. Today we are all the Shluchim to Alpharetta. There is but one Shlichus today. There is one mitzvah for all of us. Holding you and your loved ones in our collective embrace of love and consolation. Know that today you and your children are being held in the arms, minds and souls of every single Shliach and shlucha in the world. Though the challenges and unique difficulties of leading the life of a Shliach far outweigh the material perks, they are no match for the intangible spiritual benefits. The tidal wave of love and support that will carry you and your family through this nightmarish storm is perhaps the benefit that stands out the most. Though we are not the same age and not close friends we are brothers,and your pain is my pain. I'm will no longer fight the tears. I know you are crying and I'm sitting here in my office crying with you. Dear G-d; Please shine your light on this family. Please heal them. Please give them strength. "Umacha Hashem es dimah may al kol panim" " May Hashem in his mercy wipe away the tears from every face"

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Vayikra files #3 clearing the air on animal sacrifice

We don't offer animal sacrifices anymore because the temple was destroyed. That's the answer we ve always been given. I ve always accepted this answer but never fully understood it until now. I ll try to explain. Spiritual leaders often make the mistake of taking personal responsibility for g-ds image. I decided a long time ago that my job can be stressful enough as it is and that if g-d wanted me as his personal publicist he would need to ask me himself. Till that happens though I don't feel the need to apologize for him anymore. No more " ahhhh they could stone people, but did they ever actually do it?" Or "yes g-d killed all those people but you can't compare our culture to ancient times, he would never do that in today's day and age "! The one that I m most relieved not to have to apologize for Is for the sacrifices. No more " well he allowed them to offer animal sacrifices because that was the culture they were familiar with,but today we've evolved and the way we commune with g-d has evolved as well.......etc etc need for the barbaric savagery of animal sacrifices". The reason I'm thrilled at my decision not to offer that particular spin job is because I simply don't buy it. It makes absolutely no sense to me on a number of levels. Let's take a look at what the animal sacrifices actually looked like. The ritualized spiritual aspect of the korbanot, began with a families pilgrimage with their livestock to the holy temple in jerusalem. Before going into The holy temple one would be required to immerse in a mikvah ritual pool.Following that the families would approach the kohen and offer the animal up on the altar, accompanied by prayer and meditation. Those present who witnessed the death of the animal were reminded of the precarious nature of life and filled with a renewed sense of gratitude for the gift of their human life. Then most of the time they would partake of that same meat together with the priests by eating a celebratory feast in the temple courtyard. This was the barbaric ritual that we are so embarrassed of ?? Most of the korbanot were actually eaten,so it was killing for food! Something wrong with that ? There was no possibility for mistreating the animals as the slaughtering took place right in front of the animal owners eyes!! The results of this visceral experience inspired all those present to live higher.To appreciate the gifts of life with more mindfulness. In trying to tie a ribbon around g-d and make him look prettier to the world,and make ourselves feel more progressive, we ve lost sight of his most relevant message yet. The taking of the animal life(humanely) was a reminder of our obligation to preserve, exalt, protect, and cherish human life at all cost. The destruction of the temple was nothing less than an assault on this value. By destroying the temple and ending the ritual slaughter of animals,society was now free to commence the slaughter of people. This might explain why even after the temple was destroyed we Jews are still targeted. We will always be the priests of the temple. We will always bear the message of the sanctity of human life. A message that makes it uncomfortable and inconvenient to murder. This explains the most illogical and puzzling mystery of all. The nation of Israel is surrounded by nations that till today are guilty of mass murder,genocide,raping of women,executions,oppression of minorities, police brutality,slavery,shooting of journalists,torture of innocents ....etc And yet the world points it's finger at the Jews! Why ! Simple..... we still make them uncomfortable with murder. We still stand for the preciousness and sanctity of life. The modern assault on Israel and the Jewish state has never been anything less than a continuation of the Destruction of the temple and it's key message of celebrating and cherishing human existence. They thought that by destroying the temple and ending animal sacrifice they would be able to kill and kill and kill with impunity! Once the Jews stopped the sacrifices in the temple we sadly became the worlds sacrifice. Butchered tortured and sacrificed over and over again. In Spain we were burned so that the world could keep killing. In Poland we were butchered so that the world could keep killing. In Germany we were tortured so that the world could keep killing. Until now. The miracle of the modern state of Israel is that we can continue to remind the world about its duty to preserve life and by being able to defend ourselves we can preserve ours as well! A "civilized world" where people spend millions on saving the whales but ignore the starving children of Africa,could use the reminder of the animal sacrifices. A "civilized world" where people care more about endangered species then endangered people,could use the reminder of the animal sacrifices A "civilized world" where the mercenaries of PETA,who moonlight as "Israel Apartheid" protesters in slow season- petition against the slaughtering of chickens but ignore the slaughter of hundreds of thousands in Darfur,could use the message of the animal sacrifices. Is it no wonder that aside from the priority of besmirching Israel's reputation in the UN and the world,the top priority for European lawmakers is now what ? That's right banning Jews from performing the one remaining practice leftover from the times of the temple; Shechita - kosher slaughtering. So why don't we have animal sacrifices ? Because a world where animal life is more sacred than human life is not ready for a Bais hamikdosh. Its also a world that needs the light of a Bais hamikdosh now more than ever before. From this perspective Vayikrah is not the least relevant book of the Torah- it's the most relevant. 

    Early Shabbat shalom 
    Rabbi Yossi