December, 2009 Archives

15
Dec

Fifty Gates

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Relationships

I turned 50 years old last night, the fourth night of Chanukah. Debbie had presented me with a list of extravagant gluten-free desserts and offered to make the one of my choice.

Having difficulty with decisions regarding Debbie’s treats, I told her that for such an important birthday, it would only be proper for her to make all of the desserts offered.

I was joking, kind of, but Debbie as always, generous beyond measure, agreed to make all of them and to invite a few of my favorite people to share my special treats.

The few people turned out to be more than 65. Friends, more like siblings than friends, flew in from Los Angeles, Boca Raton, Palm Beach and St. Louis. One has been a friend/brother since 1974. There were people from practically every stage of my adult life.

Each and every person there had gone out of their way to help me in good times and bad, and had shared in joyous times, illness, suffering, and life-changing decisions. I would not be where or who I am if not for them.

I was so moved by the people who cared enough to come and share the moment, and steal some of my desserts,

which they claimed were “just,” (sorry! I couldn’t resist) that I barely had time to eat any of my treats. (I did offer to manage all the leftovers, and have been granted the 24 hours of my birthday to add a few pounds.)

We were gathered in our living room, where we also host a minyan for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Just before the obligatory speech I recalled the last time I had spoken in the room, just before Neilah.

At that time I reflected on gates that are in the process of closing. Before and during Neilah, we tend to picture ourselves standing outside the gates, and their closing as a loss of opportunity. What if, I asked, rather than standing outside the gates, we were standing inside? We could picture the gates as protecting us and all we gained over Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

I always picture the closing gates of Neilah as holding me in the courtyards of prayer and Teshuva. I don’t see them as shutting me out, because I have learned through, what many consider, great suffering, that God never closes the Heavenly Gates before us.

Gates represent new opportunities. A slave, who refuses to accept an opportunity for freedom, has his ear pieced on a gate! The Heavenly gates close us in when we need protection, but they constantly open toward more opportunities.

50 represents the 50 Gates of Binah – Understanding. Turning 50 is all about recognizing when the Gates of Opportunity are open wide, inviting us to step through them into even better places.

I have walked through many gates, but I was never alone. Each one of the people who came to steal some of my desserts, and the many who could not come but were there in spirit, had held my arm and helped me walk through every one of those gates.

Thanks for being there with me and for me. I see the gates opening once again: Walk with me.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share
10
Dec

Private Conversations

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Prayer, Reflections & Observations

The New York streets I remembered were filled with people talking to themselves and wildly gesticulating.

The taxi driver who drove me to the airport at the conclusion of my first visit to Lincoln Square Synagogue pointed out all the people walking around with Walkmans, earphones in their ears and shut off from the rest of the world. “I prefer the people who talk to themselves than to live in a city in which everyone shuts everyone else out,” he said. (This was a time when most taxi drivers were struggling college students.)

Well, I think his wish came true. Wherever I go I see people with flashing blue lights in a weird contraption hanging on an ear, shouting, pleading, laughing, talking and gesticulating wildly. They don’t seem to be talking to anyone in particular. I never know if someone is talking to me or some ethereal spirit called iPhone.

They are all talking again, but they seem even more shut off from the world than they did in the good old days of the Walkman!

I was ruminating on all this on my way to synagogue. I wrapped myself in my Tallit and Tefillin, and services began. You won’t believe what happened!

There were no flashing blue lights in their ears, but everyone began talking, seemingly to themselves, many gesticulating, some were almost dancing, most were swaying back and forth. Everyone was carrying on private conversations with someone not readily visible; Did I feel as if I were back on a busy Manhattan street?

No. Each person was carrying on a private conversation, but no one was shutting out the rest of us. In fact, we had actually gathered together to have these private conversations. In fact, we all felt that our private conversations improved because we had gathered to have these talks.

Weird, right? Imagine a group of people gathering in a room just to each have private blue-tooth powered cell phone conversations. I’ll admit it: I do it as often as possible. It isn’t New York. In fact, it is not an earthly experience at all.

So, I respond to the bluetooth device wearing person who yesterday asked me why we gather in order to have private conversations: “What do you think you are doing? I will not carry on an important conversation with my wife while walking on a crowded street. I move to the closest quiet spot to speak with her. I usually find a few others who are doing the same thing.

“If that is what I do to have a disembodied conversation with my wife, what shall I do to converse with God?”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share
8
Dec

Reb Shlomo Speaks about the Satmar Rebbe ZT”L

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

In honor of the anniversary of the Rebbe’s liberation from the holocaust, we present: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rn2__K0Gydc

Share
8
Dec

Gam Zu L’Tovah: Accepting Responsibility

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

It is a great story for children, but it certainly presents some serious questions. Nachum was representing all the people of Israel. Was it not his responsibility to guard the bag of jewels?

How could he simply rely on a miracle after he realized that the contents had been switched? Why did he return to the same inn and set up his hosts for their demise?

One thing is clear to me: When Nachum saw that the contents had been switched, he acknowledged and accepted that he was at fault. His immediate response was to learn something from a disaster.

It was Nachum who transformed the disaster into something good! “This ALSO,” means, “It can also be for the good, just as it is bad!” How?

It is up to the person to transform the experience into a learning experience just as Nachum did. This is not about turning lemons into lemonade: A disaster is a disaster. Our responsibility is to learn and grow from the experience.

Once Nachum’s response was to learn, he turned the events into a positive, and that created to perfect environment for miracles to happen.

Had he not responded as he did to the discovery, and forced himself to say, “It’s all for the best,” he would have turned back to Israel and face the music there.

There’s more….

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share
8
Dec

Gam Zu L’Tova: It’s All For The Best ???? Part One

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

I often hear people around me wholeheartedly declare about terrible things that happen to other people; “Gam zu l’tovah!” – which, they translate as, “It’s all for the best.”

I’ll be honest; I also hear them say it about their own problems, but with less conviction.

This idea seems to confuse many people. They do not know how to understand, and nether to I, how we are supposed to accept that absolutely everything that happens to us is for the best.

Even if we accept that absolutely everything that happens to us is predetermined by God, which we definitely do not accept, do we mean to say that, ultimately, in the World to Come, we will find that this was all for the best?

Were the people pushed and shoved into the gas chambers supposed to say, “This too, is for the best?”

The saying is based on the following selection from the Talmud:

Why was he called Nahum of Gamzu? — Because whatever befell him he would declare, This also is for the best. Once the Jews desired to send to the Emperor a gift and after discussing who should go they decided that Nahum of Gamzu should go because he had experienced many miracles. They sent with him a bag full of precious stones and pearls. He went and spent the night in a certain inn and during the night the people in the inn arose and emptied the bag and filled it up with earth. When he discovered this next morning he exclaimed, “This also is for the best!” When he arrived at his destination and they undid his bag they found that it was full of earth. The king thereupon desired to put them all to death saying, “The Jews are mocking me!” Nahum then exclaimed, “This also is for the best!”

Whereupon Elijah appeared in the guise of one of them and remarked, Perhaps this is some of the earth of their father Abraham, for when he threw earth [against the enemy] it turned into swords and when [he threw] stubble it changed into arrows, for it is written, “His sword makes them as dust, his bow as the driven stubble.” Now there was one province which [the emperor had hitherto] not been able to conquer but when they tried some of this earth [against it] they were able to conquer it. Then they took him [Nahum] to the royal treasury and filled his bag with precious stones and pearls and sent him back with great honor. When on his return journey he again spent the night in the same inn he was asked, “What did you take [to the king] that they showed you such great honor?” He replied, “I brought there what I had taken from here.”

[The innkeepers] thereupon razed the inn to the ground and took of the earth to the king and they said to him, The earth that was brought to you belonged to us. They tested it and it was not found to be [effective] and the innkeepers were thereupon put to death. (Taanit 21b)

Is there another way to understand Nachum’s rule?

Even his student, Rabbi Akiva, made a slight change in his Rebbi’s rule, as we will see…

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share
6
Dec

Dr. Sidney Miller of Blessed Memory

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Dedicated to my very dear friend, Lee Miller, May God Comfort You Among The Mourners of Zion and Jerusalem: There is a different quality to a funeral of someone who dies of very old age, let’s say over ninety. I have performed and attended at least seven such funerals. Few or no contemporaries, but at least four or five generations, attended each. The funeral I attended today was different. Dr. Sidney Miller and his wife celebrated their 71st anniversary less than two weeks ago. He passed away on Friday night at the age of 98. That is unusual, but still not what made Dr. Miller different. He passionately loved his wife, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even his children in-law. Also highly unusual to witness such intense two way love, but still not what made Dr. Miller different. He grew up in a small town in Ontario, Canada and became a highly successful Park Ave. doctor, universally respected and beloved by colleagues and patients. Again, unusual, but still not what made Dr. Miller’s funeral different from absolutely every other funeral I have attended, and I have attended literally close to a thousand. Dr. Miller, at 97 years old, almost blind, and barely able to walk, would not allow his fifteen year old granddaughter to walk alone on Park Ave. He insisted on walking with her to make sure she was safe. Unusual, even funny, but still not what made Dr. Miller who he was. He brought out the best behavior in his children and grandchildren. We should all be so loved and cared for by our offspring! But, still not what made him unique. As everyone spoke about, actually celebrated, his wonderful life, I realized that I was participating in a once in a lifetime occurrence: It is clear that you can take a time machine to any one of Dr. Miller’s almost ten decades on this earth, and no matter where, or when, you land, you will find him at his best. The man lived everyday of his life committed to that day being the best of him. Whether he was 15, 25, 75, 85 or even 95, his quest to be his best was always foremost in his actions, not his words, his actions. Dr. Miller did not live more than 98 years; he lived more than 35,770 days at his absolute best. He was 97 when he broke 5 ribs and punctured his lung, and he still wanted that day to be his best ever. It isn’t that he didn’t complain; it is that he was so focused on living as best as he could, that it never occurred to him to complain. There are people who live beautiful, magnificent, and productive lives. Dr. Miller lived beautiful, magnificent and productive days. He was a different type of human being. It was a different sort of funeral. It was not the funeral of a 98-year-old man. It was the funeral of an almost 40,000-day-old man. Today I learned that there is a big difference. Thanks Dr. Miller. Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share
4
Dec

Overwhelmed By Numbers

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

I was overwhelmed with all the posts on Shalom Aleichem that I received in response to my invitation. I spent so much time responding to emails, posting, editing etc. that I barely had time to write anything this week. I was thrilled to receive so many beautiful insights into a song that so many take for granted, but I was also distracted. I am far from the best time-manager. (Busy-itis)

Jacob used numbers in this week’s portion to overwhelm his brother, Esau. He sent a huge number of gifts, many enough to distract anyone other than Esau who liked having too many things. (Yesh li kol) Jacob went one step further: He positioned the gifts in parcels so that Esau would meet one of Jacob’s representatives laden with gifts, and ask, “What are all these things?” The planned response was, “They are gifts to you Esau from your servant Jacob.” Every mile or two, Esau would find more gifts.

Jacob used this strategy to make Esau feel that there were more and more gifts coming his way. He wanted to diffuse his brother’s hatred and anger with an overwhelming number and presentation of gifts. It worked.

Jacob even divided his camp into two, not only to protect half of his possessions, but also to create an image of having more: “Now I have enough for two camps!”

Jacob certainly appreciated the pure “Numbers Strategy.” The Midrash describes Esau’s angel as using Jacob’s strategy against him: Jacob was alone at the side of the river and a man said, “Can you please help me with these few things?” Jacob, being the gentleman he was, readily agreed. He helped the man carry some things across the river only to hear, “I have a few more things. Can you help me with those as well?” Well, a gentleman is a gentleman, and Jacob agreed. Until this happened over and over and Jacob realized that he had spent most of the night being distracted by numbers!

“Pharmakos, pharmakos! What are you doing to me?” Jacob didn’t wrestle with the man-angel, he wrestled with numbers and distractions.

It’s interesting to note that immediately after the “match,” Jacob brought his two camps back together. (Rabbeinu Avraham ben HaRambam)

The angel had one lesson for Jacob: “Yes, your strategy of overwhelming numbers and distractions is effective. But a distraction is just that; a distraction. Become “Israel,” the person who can directly and courageously confront every issue.”

Jacob listened. He combined the two camps and stepped forward to deal directly with Esau. He became Israel in the process.

I can look back at my week and complain about distractions, self-imposed as they were, or, I can choose to acknowledge that I must confront my issues head-on, and become an Israel.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

Share