Thursday, December 31, 2015


In this week's parsha, Shemos, we read about the burning bush. "The bush was on fire but the bush was not being consumed."

What is the meaning of this symbolism? What can we take from this to help us in our lives?

For the Jewish people in Egypt, the bondage had reached an all time low. Pharaoh inflicted with a skin ailment, was told by his doctors that to cure it, he needs to bathe in the blood of Jewish children. This was the blow that broke the Jewish people.

Until this point there was the hope, the understanding that as difficult as things are, there is a purpose to the suffering and soon will be an end to the bondage. But with their children being murdered, all hope of a future is gone.

Yet the Jewish people did not despair, when they had nothing left they remembered that a Jew always has Hashem and they cried out to Hashem with all their hearts. Hashem then heard their cries.

This is when Hashem shows Moshe the burning bush and this is the start of the redemption.

The bush burns but it is not consumed. This is the Jewish people. When there seems to be no fuel left we remember that we have Hashem and burn bright and strong and we are not consumed. This is what kick starts our redemption.

At times, life is so difficult, we can see no hope, but there is no reason to despair, rather it is time to shine brighter than ever and cry out to Hashem from a place far deeper than what we ever imagined, from the inner fire that can never be extinguished. And then Hashem gives us true redemption.

I am amazed every day by my wife Dina, I don't know what keeps her going. The struggle to take care of the family and being there for me. It used to be burning the wick at both ends, but now there is no more fuse. I always wonder how she does it, but now I think she is the real thing, a Jewish mother, unbreakable and with an open connection to Hashem.

I think we have already suffered enough, Hashem please send Moshiach.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Rise Above It

In this week's parsha, Vayechi, Yosef bound his brothers with an oath, that when Hashem "raises you out of this," meaning, takes their descendants out of Egypt, they will take his bones, to be buried in Israel. The Torah then ends the book of Bereishis, Genesis, with this verse: "And Joseph died at the age of a hundred and ten years, and he was embalmed and placed in a coffin in Egypt."

Why was it the responsibility of all the children of Israel to take Yosef's bones, why not only his own children? Why is Yosef focused on at the end of the parsha? When the Torah chooses to finish a book with a verse, there is a significant message in that verse. What message is there for us in this verse?

The Jewish people are about to begin a most difficult and horrific exile in Egypt. Hashem gives them the psychological tools necessary to deal with it. These are lessons for all future exiles, including the present one.

First, we need to know that there is an end and a purpose to this galus, exile, Hashem will not only take us out of galus, but he will "raise us out of this." We will be raised to a higher level, we will see and enjoy the fruits of all the work, toil and suffering. Knowing this will help us overcome the difficulties of galus.

Second, we need to be like Yosef. Yosef becomes the ruler of Egypt. He rises above and rules galus even during the time of galus. We too, like Yosef, can rise above and rule our present galus. Like Yosef we are in it, but it doesn't rule us.

Third, Yosef stays with us until we leave galus. This is to be a reminder and strengthen us to rise above. Every Jew was obligated to carry Yosef, when things are difficult, think of Yosef, realize that you to can be like him and overcome and rise above any challenges that come our way.

It seems my family and I were chosen to endure open and difficult challenges, which we struggle with every day. It is hard to rise above, but there is nothing more gratifying then overcoming a challenge. Even though the challenge still exists, and the hardships endure, we try to find ways to rise above them. How enjoyable is it that I can make another Jew happy and I am grateful to Hashem that even in my present state I have found ways to do it.

Still, this galus has dragged on long enough, may Hashem remove the suffering and challenges and give us revealed good now.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Anguish Yes, Fear No

In this week's parsha, Vayigash, we read of the descent of the Jewish people into their first exile, Egypt. As they are about to exit the Holy Land, Hashem tells Yaakov, "don't  be afraid to go down to Egypt, because I will make you into a great nation there. I am going down to Egypt with you..."

Rashi explains that Yaakov was "anguished over leaving the Holy Land."  How could I lead my family away from the best place for them to become a nation, the place most conducive to be a Jew and to be close to Hashem? How will we become Hashem's nation in a dark and distant exile?

Hashem tells him "don't be afraid to go down to Egypt, because I will make you into a great nation there. I am going down to Egypt with you..."

While Hashem allays his fears about going down to Egypt, He does not even mention Yaakov's anguish over leaving Israel. Why not? Since this is Hashem's message to Yaakov as he goes down to the first Jewish exile, there must be  lessons here for every Jew on how to deal with the exile. What are those lessons?

Being in exile, one may feel that it is a lost cause trying to make a difference in a Jewish way. Hashem is telling us that the opposite is actually the case. The fact that Hashem puts us in a predicament, means that this situation is most conducive to accomplish our mission, it is here where we will be most effective and most successful.

The key is not to be afraid of the situation, don't be afraid of the exile, embrace it and find how to use your predicament to effect even greater change.

This is what Hashem tells Yaakov " don't be afraid of going down to Egypt, because I will make you into a great nation THERE." Why shouldn't you be afraid? Why will you succeed? Because Hashem is going down with you.

Now, if we succeed, there is the possibility to become comfortable and lose focus of our purpose. This is why Hashem doesn't mention Yaakov's anguish, because it is his anguish that will keep him focused on his essential purpose and bond with Hashem. This anguish is the force behind our success.

Sometimes I feel, that if only Hashem would speak to me, as he did to Yaakov, it would be so much easier to deal with the pain and suffering. But then I remind myself, that everything in Torah is Hashem talking to me. It is not easy to see it that way, but it is true. It takes effort and thought, again, it is not easy, but if you can put this in focus, you will find comfort in knowing that Hashem is talking to you and He is always with you, you are Yaakov.

So we need both, first, not to be afraid and second, the anguish. We need to realize that although we can succeed greatly in exile, it is not our place. We must cry out to Hashem that He send Moshiach and bring the exile to an end. May it happen soon.

I want to thank my wife Dina, for her help writing this article.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

We Are Maccabees Too

In this week's parsha, Mikeitz, Yosef has two children, Menasheh and Efrayim. These names have meaning, Menasheh, "Hashem made me forget all my hardships and all my father's home." Efrayim, "Hashem made me fruitful in the land of my suffering."

Being in Egypt, Yosef was aware that he was put there to effect Egypt in a positive and G-dly way. But at the same time he needed to insure that he would not lose his Jewish identity, which is a possible effect when mingling in a foreign culture.

The names of his sons addressed these sentiments. Efrayim, to be fruitful in the land of my suffering, which is involving himself and effecting Egypt. Menasheh, is connected to his past, although he talks about forgetting, he is referring to the anguish he suffered, not the Jewish way of life and the Torah he learned, those he wanted to remember.

What lesson can we take from Yosef? Why did Minasheh come first? How does this connect to Chanuka?

Yosef sets the standard for all Jews at all times. We are Yosef! We are meant to effect the world around us, by participating and influencing our surroundings with Torah values. It is obvious that this is true, because Hashem put us here in a physical world.

The problem is that the world and its cultures are enticing, especially when we find success. This is why Menasheh comes first. In order to to be effective and not be swept away, we must constantly develop and strengthen our essential bond and foundation in Judaism. This needs to come first, if we want to be effective in our mission to change the world in a positive way.

In the story of Chanuka, many if not most of the Jewish people succumbed to the licentious lifestyle of the Greeks. They lost their way, and sense of moral superiority, their connection to Torah and holiness. The Maccabees, outnumbered and weak, saved the day and saved Judaism. Not because they were great warriors, but because they were true to Hashem and His Torah, and when your on Hashem's side you never loose.

Today, we find ourselves, again in a world of confusion and lies, the worlds culture is antisemitic and anti-Israel. As we witness the collapse of any semblance of decency, morality and truth. At this time we must strengthen our essential Jewish foundation. We must, like the Maccabees, stand strong for what we know to be the truth and the highest standard of living, the Torah way.

May the light of Chanuka light up the world and may we soon dedicate our Holy Temple again.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Seeing Things from Hashem's Paradigm

In this week's parsha, Vayeishev,  we read about Yosef. Despised by his brothers, sold into slavery, and thrown into jail on false charges. An orphan, alone, in a foreign land. Yet you don't get the feeling that Yosef was depressed or down at all. He seems positive, able to rise above and succeed in every situation.

How is Yosef able to stay positive? How can we be like Yosef and stay positive?

There are several approaches one can take when knocked down with challenges. You can become a life long victim, the "woe is to me" mentality. This type of existence is a miserable one. Than there is the guy who can get up after being knocked down. Although this sounds admirable, it can be exhausting, and it is very difficult.

Then there is the "Yosef" approach. Yosef's paradigm was the key to his positive outlook. Yosef saw himself as part of Hashem's plan, he saw every situation as part of the plan. When you perceive the world from this perspective, every "so called" challenge, knock down, etc., is nothing more than part of the plan and therefore positive. You are therefore never knocked down to begin with.

Our perspective is the key to our happiness. When we only see ourselves, we are stuck with the difficulty of being knocked down, the pain, the hurt, the anguish, the suffering, etc.

However, when you see everything as part of Hashem's plan, every situation is seen as an opportunity. The crazier/stranger the situation, the more meaning could be found in it. Instead of being knocked down, you are uplifted.

It is not easy to get past ourselves, but by doing so, we can see things from Yosef's perspective. By seeing it all as part of Hashem's plan, we can overcome life's challenges.

I have so much faith in our ability to be like Yosef, and always know our challenges to be purposeful. To be able to lead with wisdom and grace. Yet we have too many challenges and we have seen too much pain. It is time for Hashem to let us all know how well we have done, and bring Moshiach now.