Monday, February 23, 2015

Parshas Zachor 2015

Parshas Zachor – Devarim 25:17-19 – This Shabbos

Parshas Tetzaveh usually precedes Purim, when we read the "maftir" portion describing how Amalek attacked the Jewish people as they left Egypt - even though Amalek lived in a distant land and was under no imminent threat. So why did Amalek attack?

The Torah says that Amalek attacked the Jews "karcha" - which literally means by way of happenstance. Amalek's entire philosophy is that there is no design or providence in the world.
Everything is haphazard, dictated by chance, luck and fate. That's why Haman, a direct descendent of Amalek, decided to kill the Jews based on a lottery, from which the name "Purim" is derived.

Philosophically, Amalek and the Jewish people stand at opposite ends of the spectrum. Judaism believes that the world has purpose and meaning, and that God is intimately involved in our lives. Indeed, that is the very lesson of Purim: Even when things seems bleak, God is there, guiding events. With Haman's decree, it seemed that the Jews were doomed. But then there was a dramatic turnabout.

In our own lives, to the extent we may doubt God's involvement, is the extent that Amalek's philosophy of randomness is part of us. The Kabbalists point out the numerical value of Amalek -- 240 -- is the same as safek, meaning "doubt." The energy of Amalek is to create doubts about what is true and real in this world, and of God's role in directing events in the best possible way. This concept is so important that one of 613 mitzvot is to remember what Amalek did. And that's what we do, every year, on the Shabbat before Purim. So let's take this message to heart, and do our part - to fight Amalek's idea of a random world.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Are Step Parents and Adoptive Parents - Real Parents?

‘Whoever raises another’s child in his house, the Scripture considers it as though he had given birth to him.’ (Megila 13a)

In Judaism step parents are just as much the real deal as birth parents.

Because being a parent is not about the fact that your son or daughter carries your DNA. Rather, it’s about caring for, loving and nurturing a child.

Whoever does so is the child’s true parent.

Monday, February 9, 2015

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.

‘Great is labor for it honors the laborer.’ - Gemara (Nedarim 49b)

There is something very special about changing a flat tire or building an IKEA cupboard.

Paying someone to do it for you may save time, but you miss out on the very unique pleasure that the Talmud refers to here.

‘Laboring’ is something very special.

Don’t pass up on it unless you genuinely have something more important to do

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

‘If there is no flour, there is no wisdom.’ (Avos 3:21)

The world does not run purely on spiritual fuel.

We need to eat also.

And if there is no food (or warmth, or shelter, or health etc), there will be no means for spiritual accomplishment either.

Physicality is spirituality if its purpose is for the sake of the latter

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

‘If a person sees that suffering befalls him ......

He should examine his deeds.’ (Berachos 5a)

Just like the physical world, Judaism believes in a cause-effect spiritual world also.

If things aren’t going well in life, likely it’s a manifestation of a spiritual malaise. (could be some correction needed from a prior life)

Nevertheless, the Rabbis tell us that this is the first place to look.

Examine your deeds and see if you are living up to your own values and standards. If not, take the opportunity to make a change.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Is there a Reward for Good Deeds in this World? Part 2

There is no worldly reward for good deeds.’ (Kiddushin 39b)

Imagine that a mother runs into a burning building to save her baby. As she comes out, you give her $100 reward for saving the child. She would be insulted.

The reward of good is the feeling of good itself. Any material reward only demeans the act.

So there is no worldly reward for good deeds – because we human beings are hard-wired in truth not to want it.

Feeling depressed - do something good for some one else - it is its own reward.