Showing posts with label Torah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Torah. Show all posts

March 14, 2020

Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Coronavirus Cancels Synagogue."
While I understand the rationale to close the synagogues, not to congregate with others and expose ourselves or spread the Coronavirus, I can’t help thinking and believing that what we need now, more than ever, is prayer to Hashem and the mitzvah of Torah study that the synagogue provides to us. Indeed, only in the hands of G-d is the ultimate power of health or illness, and life or death...To me, this Shabbat was not a full Shabbat, because there was no synagogue, no Rabbi’s sermon, no community to talk and share with. I feel robbed of my religion today. I want to be able to go to synagogue and have a real Shabbat. How many other Shabbatot will we have to continue to go through without being able to pray in a minyan, hear the Torah reading, listen to the Rabbi’s speech, and see our community friends?

Many say and I firmly believe that we are on the doorstep of Mashiach and that he is even here among us waiting for the right moment to reveal himself. We’ve survived so much and finally have returned as a people to our homeland of Israel. Now we must survive the final birthing pains of Mashiach and then we will be able to go not only to our synagogues once again, but also to the Temple in Jerusalem to pray and learn at G-d’s very footstep in this earthly world.


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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February 22, 2020

The Commandments are for All of Us

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "The Commandments are for All of Us."
While some Jews certainly thrive in Yeshiva delving into the Talmudic understanding of the laws for long hours every day, and they serve an important role in understanding and transmitting the laws from generation to generation, others may be more interested in the fundamental philosophy of Judaism and in "doing what's right" by applying the core teachings of the Torah at their own levels every day. Maybe this is one reason that the Ten Commandments are presented separately from the "mishpatim" that follow. Not that they aren't both important and necessary, but that the Torah is for all of us in the ways that each of us can appreciate, learn, and apply them within the overall framework of the Torah.

Of course, all the commandments are important between G-d and man and between man and man, as well as the conceptual framework of the Ten Commandments and the details embedded in the rest of the 613 commandments. Yet certainly, all of us in one way or another struggle with some commandments more than others or with losing sight of either the high-level essence of the Torah or important details of implementation. Nevertheless, we must strive to not only appreciate that all the Torah comes from Hashem, but also that we each must work as best as we can, in our own capacities, to learn and fulfill G-d's laws and to be a good example and "light unto the nations," which is what being "the chosen people" is really all about.

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal of Chagall Tapestry in Knesset, Israel)

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February 9, 2020

From Victims To Victors

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "From Victims To Victors."
The critical image of transformation of the Israelites going from the very depths of slavery to the lofty heights of redemption, the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, and going to the Promised Land is relived again in our very own times. This happened immediately after the Holocaust, when the Jews left the death camps of Europe (in fact, many coming by boat over the Mediterranean Sea instead of on foot over the Red Sea as in biblical times) to come to Israel. Here too, the Jews went on to fight as free men in the War of Independence for the founding of the State of Israel just like the Israelites fought the Amalekites in the desert and the Seven Nations to receive the Promised Land of Israel. Furthermore, just like we received the Torah after the redemption from Egypt, we are seeing an incredible resurgence of Torah learning in Israel today.

In both cases of redemption, we had to transform from being victims of slavery and persecution to instead taking the reins in our hands, and with Hashem's help, determining our own destiny and becoming the victors! Incredibly, just as the Israelites were redeemed by Hashem from Egypt and brought to conquer the Promised land 3300 years ago, so too were we, Jews, brought from the ashes of Auschwitz to the shores of the Israel to fight and become "a free nation in our Land, the Land of Zion, Jerusalem" (Hatikvah). And just like the redemption from Egypt resulted in the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) to worship Hashem in the desert, so too will we soon relive the redemption in the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Again, in the right time, we will need to have faith and courage to rebuild it with our very hands, and this will happen speedily and truly in our days. May Hashem let it be!


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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January 15, 2020

G-d Hears Your Prayers

My son-in-law reminded me of a beautiful Jewish saying about prayer:
Even if a sharp sword rests upon a person's neck, he should not refrain from praying for mercy. 

One can still hope for mercy from the Almighty even at death's door. 

This is truly beautiful and uplifting--we can approach G-d anytime, and as long as we are alive, there is always hope.

The saving from G-d is like "the blink of an eye." ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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December 26, 2019

Aish Kumzitz - Hanukah 2019





(Credit Videos: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 26, 2019

A Song of Saul and David


Great song: David and Shaul from Ehud Banay's third album, ”The Third/Hashlishi”

The song is about the "bipolar" feelings of King Saul toward David (then the next king of Israel). 

Here are the lyrics:

כולם מזמן הלכו לישון

רק שאול ער, קודר
מרים לדוד טלפון

A late-night hour
Everyone is long gone to sleep
Only Shaul is awake, cheerless
He calls David up over the phone

אולי תקפוץ אלי, יא דוד
נפשי אגם שחור
תביא איתך את הגיטרה
כי באצבעותיך אור

Maybe you should stop by, Ya David
My soul is a black lake
Bring the guitar with you
For you have light in your fingers

דוד בא מיד רגוע,
מתיישב ומכוון
את המלאכה היטב יודע
עוצם עיניים, מנגן

David comes right away and he is calm
Sit down and tunes (the guitar)
The job he well knows
Closes his eyes, he plays

עשר אצבעות לדוד
קצה כל אצבע - קרן אור
כשהוא פורט על המיתר
הזמן זורם לו לאחור

Ten fingers David has
The tip of each one - a ray of light 
When he port on the string
The time is flowing backwards

שאול מבפנים קרוע
קרבות בתוך בטנו
אוהב-שונא, ומקנא
מכור לחברו

Shaul is torn inside
Battles in his stomach he has
Love-hate, and jealous he is
Addicted to his friend

דבר מה אפל נופל
השד חוזר להשתולל
סכין נזרקת באוויר
פתאום יש בין השנים קיר

Something dark falls
The demon is back to a rage
A knife is thrown in the air
Suddenly there is a wall between the two

דוד מתחמק משאול
אבל שאול לא מוותר
דוד שוכח וסולח
כששאול מתקשר
David is avoiding Shaul
But Shaul is not giving up
David forget and forgives
When Shaul call up
בוא שוב לנגן לי דוד
קח אותי לכוכבים
בוא שוב לנגן הלילה
שיר געגועים
Come again to play to me David
Take me to the stars
Come again to play tonight
A song of longing

בוא שוב לנגן הלילה...

Come again and play tonight..

בוא שוב לנגן הלילה
שיר געגועים...
Come again and play tonight..
A song of longing..

(Kudos to my Ulpan teacher, Rivka D. for sending me the video and to Izchak, my wonderful son-in-law, for providing the Hebrew/English lyrics)

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November 23, 2019

The Life and Legacy of Sarah

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called "The Life and Legacy of Sarah."


The Rebbetzin explained beautifully that when we live a good life, not only does our soul live on in the afterlife, but our good deeds continue to have an influence in this world even after we, ourselves, have passed.

We should never underestimate our influence in this world, and that what we say and do reverberates like concentric circles that spread out from the source farther and farther. Moreover, while you might not think that what you do matters all that much or is a big deal, you never really know the outsize impact that it can have. Therefore, even while Sarah had passed and Abraham mourned her, the truth is that her legacy of the great Jewish nation was only just beginning!


(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 16, 2019

Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel, "Avraham, The Ultimate Mensch."
The Rabbi asked why did Hashem who is omnipotent even need to create us? And he answered because in G-d being the ultimate good, He “had to create us”—this in essence being the ultimate expression of good by sharing that goodness with us to learn and be good as well. In short, what could be a greater good than extending that opportunity to be be good to others.

Like our forefather, my Hebrew name is Avraham, and for me personally, this has been a critical life lesson: learning to see challenges as opportunities to learn, grow, and consistently be a person that tries to do what is right even when it is hard or the lines seem to be grey. In the end, I believe that G-d put us in this world in order for us to choose good over evil and demonstrate kindness to others. With the Torah as our blueprint, and Avraham, our forefather, as our role model, we must apply the great teachings of the Torah and always strive to act as a proper mensch!

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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October 24, 2019

Can't Sit, Can't Stand

So I've been having this excruciating lower back pain for about a week. 

I literally cannot sit or stand without shooting pain. 

When I sit, it hurts the lower back so much to get up. 

And when I stand, all I want to do is relieve the pressure and sit down. 

I feel like the warning from G-d in the Torah where He says (Deuteronomy 28:67):
In the morning you will say '"If only it were evening!" and in the evening "If only it were morning!"
The only real relief so far is lying down or going in the pool. 

Planning to see the doctor to check it out and hopefully with G-d's mercy it will be better very soon.  ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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September 25, 2019

The Magical Letters Of Tishrei

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "The Magical Letters of Tishrei."
It is ingenious how the letters of the Aleph and Bet and Tishrei (the dates when Rosh Hashanah occurs) is exactly equivalent to the letters in the Hebrew word for Genesis (Bereshit), which is the event of creation that we celebrate on the Jewish New Year. 

Truly, this magical genius evident in the Torah can only be from one source and that is the one Creator and Sustainer of the Universe, Himself!

Let me take this opportunity to wish everyone a truly magical Rosh Hashanah and one that is filled G-d’s mercy and blessings for a happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful New Year!

(Credit Graphic: Andy Blumenthal)
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September 12, 2019

What’s Your Fantasy Synagogue

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "What's Your Fantasy Synagogue."
We all go to synagogues that we like in some ways and don’t like in others, but have you ever thought about what your fantasy synagogue would be like if you could make one?Last Shabbat, we were invited for lunch by some wonderful friends who had been sports writers, and the topic of fantasy football came up, where people compete for coming up with the best team by picking their own players and forming their ideal team. I said, half jokingly, wouldn’t it be great if we could do the same thing with synagogues and pick the best aspects of each and make an ideal house of worship for ourselves where we could pray, learn, grow, and experience holiness and community. 
In the article, I detail "the best of the best" when it comes to synagogues and the ultimate ideal synagogue is of course, in the coming of the Mashiach and the rebuilding of the Temple. 

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal) 
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September 4, 2019

G-d Is Good


What a cool barber shop in downtown Miami called, The Spot Barbershop.

When you are lying back in the chair, look what you see on the ceiling:
G-d Is Good.

The other day we went out to eat with some folks. 

And the question came up whether you think most people are good or bad. 

Interestingly, most of the people at the table thought either they are predominantly good or at least that they have the potential for good. 

Really, it is G-d that is the ultimate good. 

And to the extent that we are created in His image and have the opportunity to choose good from evil, then we too can be good. 

G-d is inherently good, but man is a toss up based on which direction he goes. ;-)

(Credit Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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August 1, 2019

Being Jewish and Proud

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Being Jewish and Proud."
With roughly 15 million Jews in a world of 7.7 billion people, we make up less than .2% of the world population. However, despite our small size, we’ve been recognized with over 20% of the Nobel Prizes for contributions to the sciences, medicine, literature, economics, and peace. Most Jews tend to believe not only in a strong core religious education, but in higher education and lifelong learning, and others excel even when starting out and innovating from their garages. From Abraham and Moses to Einstein and Freud, and even to today’s Jews leading the Technology revolution–such as Steve Ballmer, Sergey Brin, Michael Dell, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, and Mark Zuckerberg–the Jewish contribution is truly unparalleled.

Until Mashiach, there will always be some people that hate on us and want to destroy us–perhaps and unfortunately, that’s just who they are. But we choose not be anyone else but Jews, because that’s who we are–and there is every reason to be ourselves, maintain our faith of thousands of years, continue to make awesome contributions that benefit mankind, and be forever proud to be a Jew.

(Photo Credit: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 22, 2019

Four Types of Desire

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "I Want What I Want."

There are four types of greed/jealousy:
  • I want what I’m missing
  • I want what I had
  • I want what you have
  • I want you to not have what you have

We can be slaves to our egos, emotions, and desires, or we can seek to control them and be better than mere animals. We have a soul, a conscience, and the Torah, so the choice should be clear even if not always easy.

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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June 10, 2019

Why Only Two, Daddy?

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, "Why Only Two Daddy?"
The father goes on to explain that these are the commandments that G-d gave to the Jews (when they were redeemed from slavery in Egypt). He enumerates just two examples: keeping the Shabbat and honoring your mother and father. The son asks, 'What are the other commandments?' The father hesitates either not knowing any of the other commandments or simply unable to remember any more of them on the spot. And all of a sudden, the little boy starts wailing to his father: 'Daddy, why do you know only two, why?'

Knowing the Torah and commandments is not only for ourselves to do what's rights, but also to pass on the torch to the next generation. It's not always easy to be good examples, but it's the challenge we all face. ;-)



(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

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November 25, 2018

43-Year Old Bar Mitzvah

Please read my article in The Times of Israel called, "Bring Every Jew Back."
Today in a beautiful Chabad synagogue here in Florida, the Rabbi called to the Torah a bar mitzvah.  But in this case, the bar mitzvah "boy" was a 43-year old man!

Read what happened and hope you enjoy! ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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November 13, 2018

Beautiful Song On Being A Jew


This was a beautiful song that we learned this week in Ulpan.

I love it--being Jewish and the song!  ;-)
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August 19, 2018

East Meets West In The Holy Land

Please see my new article in The Times of Israel called, Israel, Where East Meets West
The modern State of Israel is truly the embodiment of this oneness and this diversity. The Jewish Nation-State Law embodies this concept where Israel is defined as the national homeland for the Jewish People, yet it is democratic, open and welcoming to everyone. For Jewish people, there are Ashkenazi Jews and there are Sephardi Jews. And at the same time, there are people of faith, Christians, Muslims, Druze, and others from all over the globe.
Hope you enjoy.   

(Photo credit: Andy Blumenthal)
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March 4, 2018

Living Your Values

So I had this great conversation today with someone about values.

Thinking about what I really value and whether I am living consistently with these...

For me, I was able to clarify for myself these critical values:

1) Being a good person and influence in the world (having a positive impact on people and ideas)

2) Being a good family man (a loving husband, father, and previously son)

3) Being spiritual and serving G-d (living selflessly for my Maker and not selfishly for myself)

4) Being a hard worker (living productively and not as a laggard or sloth)

5) Being a balanced person (living along the "golden path" or "middle of the road"--not an extremist)

6) Being a generally healthy person (living a lifestyle that includes activity, exercise, good nutrition, and no smoking, drugs, or excessive drinking)

What I realized is that when I need to let my values guide me every moment of every day. 

This ultimately means my success and happiness! 

Being what I think that I am supposed to be or what others would want me to be, just doesn't work--it's a strategy for failure. 

My father used to tell me:
"Let your conscience be your guide"  (that and the Torah, of course)

This is the answer to a lot of questions that I have in my life--about what to do with my life and what decisions to make.

Values--driven by conscience and integrity--that's where I want to go next and next. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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January 1, 2018

G-d Protects Us - Happy 2018!

So I took this photo in a Jewelry store in Mamilla Mall in Jerusalem. 

All these beautiful hamsas!

Hamsas are traditional symbols of G-d's protection and to ward off the evil. 

These were some very beautiful ones. 

Some say that it is symbolic of the hand of Miriam, Moses' sister, raised in a protective stance over the people. 

Five fingers are like the five books of the Torah and a reminder to use all five of our senses in worshipping and praising G-d. 

Talking to someone yesterday about surviving in the face of some very difficult challenges, she said to me:

"Remember, just because the adversary is powerful, you are the David to the Goliath!"


With G-d's help and blessings, even a little David can slay the giant evil Goliath. 

For the New Year of 2018 and forward, G-d should bless us and protect us, shine his face upon us and be gracious unto us, lift up his countenance upon us, and give us peace!  

The L-rd is the ultimate strength and justice and in front of Him no evil will stand. 

Our faith may be tested, but from it, we will come out smarter, stronger, and better souls, as G-d teaches us to look always to the Heavens where all good emanates. ;-)

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)
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