‘Reflections & Observations’ Category Archives

13
Mar

“Measure Twice Cut Once” by Prof Gerald August

by developer in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

Did the Torah get it wrong the first time it listed what to make in the tabernacle? Why do we need a repetition of the same specifications? This is a duplication of the same excruciating details. What’s the point? The Torah could have used that space to state the 39 things you are prohibited to do on Shabbos. Or, it could have provided more detail on ritual slaughter.

Also, the tabernacle was to be a temporary central point for the Jewish people until they could build the Temple. This information might be of interest to archaeological architects, but who could find any meaning that is relevant to us today?

I think there are two relevant lessons in this wallowing in specificity and repetition.

The first relevant point is that the specifications are repeated. When we take time to proofread, go back and check again, we insure that what we thought the first time was correct..

In our fast paced, new-media society how many people take the time to make sure that what they’re sending is what they want to send, and whether what they’re sending will blow back on them because it was not correct or just plain offensive.

When there was no Internet, and people wrote letters and notes to each other, there was a simple rule, the 24-hour test. Put it in a drawer and look at it the next day. You may find that the strong emotions you expressed were not appropriate or you didn’t have all the facts, so you didn’t send the letter. Remember e-mail is there forever. So the first lesson is to take your time and think about what you’re communicating. Don’t get yourself into trouble.

The second thing we learn is to be specific. When we leave out important details, the recipient does not know what to do. Many times we talk in generalities or not adequate detail, when what is needed are the specifics. The specifics had better be correct or the edifice crumbles down

I was visiting a relative in a hospital. The facility was on 80 acres and was relatively new, about 10 years old. One of the other visitors looked at me and said they made a big mistake when they built the hospital. I asked what it was. She asked me where the closets were? I pointed to the armoire. She told me there were no closets in the hospital. Someone forgot to put them in the blueprints. That is someone that should have measured twice, going over the specs with a fine tooth comb. That would have prevented such an egregious oversight.

We learn a lesson about specificity from the Torah. You need to have all the specifics. Leaving out one can be disastrous. Measure twice, cut once.

So rather than being a waste of parchment in the Torah, we learn two critical life lessons from these readings. No wonder so much space was given to them..

This post is in memory of my mother, whose yartzeit is this coming week.

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24
Feb

Giving or Taking

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

Giving-and-Taking

Giving and Taking

An interesting thing happens as siblings choose which items to take from the home of a deceased parent; they are simultaneously giving and taking. When we say to another, “Here, take this Kiddush cup,” we are giving to each other, but there is an assumed taking in the process; by assuming those rights, we are taking ownership of my mother’s possessions. It’s fascinating to observe that all of us are more focused on the sharing, the giving, than the taking. I found it difficult to take anything other than pictures. One sister insisted that I take something, which I did, and, although I look at the item and feel connected to my parents, I still feel as if I took something away. Taking is harder for us than is giving.

Which leads me to the famous question on this week’s portion: Why does the verse instruct Moshe to, “Take a portion for Me,” rather than “give” to Me? There are many wonderful and enriching answers, but as I experienced the freedom to take to give even while having difficulty taking for myself, I realized that there is a skill to taking.

The verse is telling us that it is in the taking from my possessions that the item becomes holy. It does not become holy when given, but when taken. A coin separated for charity is holy when set aside for charity, even before it is given to a person or organization. When I choose to take time to pray, the time becomes holy before I begin praying.

The Chassidic Masters loved to teach that when the verse tells us, “When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you (Exodus 22:24),” that the proper way to read the verse is, “When you lend money to the poor, the money remains with you forever,” it becomes yours only when you take it to lend to the needy.

This is similar to the story in the Talmud of Munbaz, “Our Rabbis taught: It is related of King Munbaz that he dissipated all his own hoards and the hoards of his fathers in years of scarcity (by giving it all away to the poor). His brothers and his father’s household came in a deputation to him and said to him, ‘Your father saved money and added to the treasures of his fathers, and you are squandering them.’ He replied: ‘My fathers stored up below and I am storing above, as it says, ‘Truth springs out of the earth and righteousness looks down from heaven.’ My fathers stored in a place which can be tampered with, but I have stored in a place which cannot be tampered with, as it says, ‘Righteousness and judgment are the foundation of His throne.’ My fathers stored something which produces no fruits, but I have stored something which does produce fruits (Bava Batra 11a).”

The power is not in the giving but by taking it and setting out to use it for good. This is the idea of making a blessing before we eat; it is our taking the food, and by reciting a blessing we are honoring the taking of the food to make a blessing as holy, even before we eat.

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.

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15
Feb

Soft Healing

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Prayer, Reflections & Observations

Hard-Soft-Healing

Both Sides of A Shivah Call

“And he shall provide for healing (Exodus 21:19).” Whenever the Bible mentions the word Refuah, healing, when applied to a human being, the letter Peh always appears with a Dagesh, a dot in the center, making the consonant P, rather than F. For instance, “We tried to cure Babylon but she was incurable (Jeremiah 51:9),” when we find the word used as something being performed by God, there is no Dagesh in the Peh; the sound is P. “Heal me O God and I will be healed (Jeremiah 17:14),” has no Dagesh, in the letter; it has the soft sound of F. Another example is, “He heals the brokenhearted (Psalms 147:3).” There are many more examples.

The reason for this distinction in the spelling of the description of the applied cure is that when man, a physician, administers a cure it is apt to be accompanied by pain and suffering, whereas a cure administered by God is a painless procedure. This is part of the meaning of, “The blessing of God enriches; He does not add sorrow to it (Proverbs 10:22).” (Rabbeinu Bachya; Commentary to the Torah)

“Heal us God and we will be healed (Amidah).” Heal us directly and painlessly without having to turn to a human being for healing.

I’m not certain that I understand Rabbeinu Bachya: I have experienced soft healing and hard at the hands of human beings. I also don’t know how we can describe God’s healing as consistently soft, especially when we consider that He caused, or, at the very least, allowed us, to become ill or injured.

My recent experience sitting Shivah for my mother z”l, receiving condolences from thousands of people, taught me to look at soft and hard healing – condolences are a form of healing – in a different light.

Some people paid a Shivah call because they felt obligated; it was their job. Those were “hard” visits.

Some people came to ask forgiveness for not actively honoring our mother who had done so much for them. Those visits and calls were even “harder.”

Many came to share stories of how she had saved their lives; they wanted to honor her. Those visits were “softer.” Some of the story sharers wanted us to appreciate how much she had done for them and for others. Although the sense of loss increased as we heard how much she had done, those visits and calls were “softer.”

Then, there were the people who cried with us; they were as devastated as were we. Those visits were so gentle and caring that we all felt our shared pain softening.

Many came to cry for us; they cried when they saw us cry. They cried over our loss. They did far more than their job as comforters; their visits softened the pain.

The softest and most powerful condolence came from a woman, “K,” who spoke to me after a class: “I don’t know how you were able to teach with such clarity when it is so clear that your heart is broken. I felt that your teaching was a way of sharing your mother’s wisdom, and your determination to teach was a reflection of her strength.” K gave me a way to use my life as a way to heal. Thank you, K; you healed me with great softness – You emulated God the Healer.

God does not heal as His “job,” but as a nurturer of life; that is His softness. He heals me from this pain each time I pray, each time I learn, each time I merit to perform a Mitzvah.

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.

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3
Feb

The Mother I Did Not Know

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Rebbitzen-Chana-WeinbergThe most important thing I learned about my mother while sitting Shivah is that I did not know her.

I knew that she was involved in numerous projects, establishing a Bikur Cholim in Baltimore, helping abused women, building a day care center for developmentally challenged adults, teaching, outreach, counselor, creating the Ner Israel Service League that supports the Kollel, and a host of other projects. I knew enough to consider her a Chesed Hero and role model, but I still did not know even a small percentage of the projects she led or the people she helped.

I was envious as I watched my great nieces and nephews honor their parents and grandparents, fulfilling the Mitzvah of honoring parents, something I will never be able to fulfill again. I was heartbroken to realize that any honor I gave my mother was so much less than she deserved.

I observed her incredible devotion to her parents and tried to emulate her, but upon reflection I realize that her Kibud Av v’Eim was always an expression of Yirah, awe, of her parents, a quality terribly lacking in my Kibud Eim.

It’s too late now for me, but for those of you who still have parents, I share these thoughts so that you will never look back on your honor of your parents and experience what I now feel. Learn who they are and make your acts of honor an expression of more than just gratitude for giving you life. Treasure each opportunity to express honor powered by awe of the people you may not know as well as you think.

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.

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13
Jan

Nurse Reveals Top 5 Regrets of the Dying

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Regret

From Arise India Forum:

“For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives

People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone’s capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Kelly Oxford: http://kellyoxford.tumblr.com/post/14958669440/nurse-reveals-top-5-regrets-of-the-dying

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4
Jan

Is Israeli Society Unraveling? by Caroline B. Glick

by developer in Holidays, Reflections & Observations

Protests-Israel-Religious-Secular

Looks Worse Than It Is

We have far more that unites us than separates us. If we focus on this, there is no force either within or without our society that can defeat us.

On balance, Israeli society is extremely healthy.

Unemployment is at record lows. At a time of global recession, the Israeli economy is growing steadily.

Israeli Jewish women have the highest fertility rate in the Western world with an average of three children per woman. Education levels have risen dramatically across the board over the past decade with dozens of private colleges opening their doors to more and more sectors of the population.

Israel’s diverse Jewish population is becoming more integrated. Sephardic and Ashkenazi intermarriage has long been a norm. Secular Jews are becoming more religious. A new educational trend that received significant media attention in recent months involves secular parents who send their children to national religious schools to ensure that they receive strong educational grounding in Judaism.

And as secular Jews become more religious, both the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors are becoming increasingly integrated in nonreligious neighborhoods and institutions. Ultra-Orthodox conscription rates have increased seven-fold in the past four years. In 2010, 50 percent of ultra-Orthodox male highschool graduates were conscripted.

The IDF assesses that by 2015, the rate of conscription will rise to 65%.

While this is still below the general conscription rate of 75% among male 18-year-olds, the rapid rise in ultra- Orthodox military service is a revolutionary development for the sector.

With military service comes entrée to the job market. The trend towards employment integration was blazed by ultra-Orthodox women. Over the past decade, ultra-Orthodox women have matriculated en masse in vocational schools that have trained them in hi-tech and other marketable professions and so enabled them to raise their families out of poverty.

These ultra-Orthodox women, who are now being followed by their IDF veteran husbands, are part of a general trend that has seen women fully integrated in almost every sector of society and the economy. The fact that women make up the senior leadership echelons in both business and government is not a fluke. Rather it is a product of the largely egalitarian nature of Israeli society.

True, as is the case everywhere, Israeli women suffer from male chauvinism.

And like the rest of the world, Israel has its share of sexual abusers, rapists, and criminal and social misogynists. But imperfection does not detract from the fact that women in Israel are free, educated, empowered and advancing on all fronts.

As for the national religious community, its youth remain committed to serving as pioneers in strengthening Israel as a Jewish democracy. Not content to limit themselves to national religious communities in Judea and Samaria, more and more young national religious families are moving to poor towns and communities from Dimona to Ramle to Kiryat Shmona to strengthen their educational, economic and social underpinnings.

Modern Orthodox women are taking on expanded roles in religious councils, synagogues, religious courts and other bodies. Soldiers from the national religious sector remain overrepresented in all IDF combat units and in the officer corps.

Israel’s growing social cohesion and prosperity is all the more notable as we witness neighboring states aflame with rebellion and revolution, extremist Islamist forces voted to power from Morocco to Egypt and economic forecasts promising mass privation.

And in the Age of Obama, with cleavages between liberals and conservatives growing ever wider in America, and with the future of the European Union hanging in the balance as the euro zone teeters on the edge of an abyss, the fact that Israeli society is becoming increasingly fortified is simply extraordinary.

In light of these integrationist trends, the media circus in recent weeks that has portrayed Israeli society as frayed through and through has been startling. With women in Israel presented as underprivileged victims, national religious youth presented as terrorists and the ultra-Orthodox community presented as a gang of misogynist, violent crazies set to transform Israel – in the words of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton – into another Iran, an average news consumer can be forgiven for wondering how he missed his country’s demise.

What explains this sudden flood of gloom and doom stories? Certainly it is true that in a highly competitive news environment, media coverage tends to over represent marginal social forces. Sensational stories make for banner headlines. And it is at the margins of society that a reporter is most likely to find sensational stories.

So it is that when reporters wish to push a socialist agenda, they descend on urban slums and talk to people hanging out on the street doing nothing. As a rule, these stories will not feature visits to vocational training schools that are educating poor people out of poverty.

Just as poor, uneducated single mothers in Lod can be depended on to blame their troubles on an insensitive government, so groups of ultra- Orthodox extremists in Beit Shemesh, whose own communities decry them, can be trusted to treat nonreligious women poorly.

None of this is to say that we should stand by and allow poor single moms and their children to go hungry or that we should accept abuse of women by ultra-Orthodox bullies. The former is an issue for social services. The latter is an issue for law enforcement bodies. And to the extent that these institutions are failing in their missions, they should be required to improve their performance.

But just the majority of single mothers, who are not impoverished, don’t deserve to be placed in the victim column, so, too, the majority of ultra-Orthodox Israelis do not deserve to have their reputation besmirched because of the bad behavior of a small, vocal and easily provoked minority.

ALL OF this brings us to the issue at hand. Stories highlighting the deviant behaviors of marginal social forces tend to be simplistic and misleading, and to serve identifiable political forces. And so, with our national discourse suddenly dominated by stories describing the demise of Israeli democracy, women’s rights and the rule of law at the hands of modern and ultra- Orthodox Jews, we need to consider who benefits from the stories.

It is notable that the seam lines being opened by all of the stories, which are again, about deviations from the norm of Israel’s social cohesion, all fall within the governing coalition. Stories of “Jewish terrorists” set the security hawks against the ideological hawks. They set the likes of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his supporters against the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria and their representatives in the Likud, Israel Beiteinu, Habayit Hayehudi and other coalition parties.

Stories about ultra-Orthodox misogynists make it politically costly for the Likud and Israel Beiteinu to sit in the same government as ultra- Orthodox parties such as Shas and United Torah Judaism. They also serve to weaken Shas among its nonultra- Orthodox voters. The fact that the ultra-Orthodox bus lines were inaugurated with the support of the Kadima government in 2007 is beside the point. It is the Likud that is now being blamed for their existence.

The current media-supported outcries against the national religious and ultra-Orthodox sectors follow the pattern of last summer’s social justice protests in Tel Aviv. The purpose of those protests was to discredit the government in the eyes of working class voters and young people.

The current protests also follow in the footsteps of the protests of 1998 and 1999 that brought down Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s first government. Those protests pitted his Russian immigrant coalition members against Shas. They pitted secular Israelis against his ultra-Orthodox coalition members. They alienated young voters from his leadership.

They set his socialist partners against his capitalist partners.

The cleavages wrought in Netanyahu’s coalition made members of his own party as well as his coalition partners fear the electoral cost of maintaining their membership in his government. And so one by one, they bolted his government until it finally fell.

Notably, many of the same forces – from the New Israel Fund to various political consultants who work for the Israeli Left to European NGOs – who were active in the protests in 1999 and in the social justice protests last summer are also playing a role in the current protests. The New Israel Fund raised NIS 200,000 in “emergency funds” to pay for buses to transport protesters to Beit Shemesh last week.

It also paid for two rallies in Jerusalem attacking religious bans on female vocalists earlier last month.

Last summer, Israel’s New Left movement led by leftist political consultant Eldad Yaniv took credit for organizing the anti-free market protests. Yaniv and his colleagues were assisted in conceptualizing the protests by US Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg, who was also the architect of the social protests in 1998-99.

Indications of how the political Left has been impacted by the current wave of demonstrations are mixed. A Shvakim Panorama poll from last week, which posited the existence of a new anti-religious party led by popular television personality Yair Lapid and a new anti-capitalist Sephardic party led by former Shas leader Arye Deri, indicated that the Left as a whole has been strengthened against the Right. While Kadima would lose most of its Knesset seats to Lapid’s party, it is Deri who would be the undoing of the Right.

The poll claimed that Deri, who since his release from prison has strengthened his bonafides as a secular- friendly political dove, would win seven mandates. Shas would drop from its current 11 seats to five. Deri’s rise would decrease the political Right in all its various forms from its current 67-seat majority in the 120 seat Knesset to a minority of 57.

The media have trumpeted this poll as the first harbinger of spring for Israel’s political Left. And certainly it provides some reason for celebration among leftist political forces. Like the protests in the late 1990s, and like last summer’s anti-capitalist protests, the current batch of anti-religious campaigns serves to turn Israeli against Israeli by feeding on and inflaming sectoral envies and insecurities. And given their success, we can certainly expect them to continue.

For the benefit of society as a whole, we must hope that the basic health and cohesion of Israeli society that has grown so miraculously over the past decade will prevail in the current contest. We have far more that unites us than separates us. If we focus on this, there is no force either within or without our society that can defeat us.

But if we give in to the forces of contention and chaos, we risk endangering everything we hold dear.



caroline@carolineglick.com

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1
Jan

“A Different Sort of New Year” by Debbie Brenner

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

New Year's Celebration

Excitement was reigning in the faces of thousands of people waiting for 2011 to be over. 10, 9 8 ….. 1 Happy New Year!!!!! All wishing each other the best, hopes and dreams to be hopefully realized in this coming year.  People hugged, smiled, shouted, felt united with strangers in Times Square to be able to shout together the new year’s welcome.

I was watching the scene on tv and felt like an outsider. Why were people so excited?   I had no doubt that the mutual good wishes were certainly real. But then I realized that the wishing was hopeful wishing. Almost like seating in front of a roulette expecting that, yes, this will be my turn to be lucky.  And then, in contrast to our Rosh Hashana, I was struck by the shattering difference.  We have a day of judgement in which what we do matters. The behavior is dependent on our actions. The ultimate “ein mazal b’israel”. That we are masters of our own destiny as opposed to be just recipients of the mazal. We can be raised above the mazal to shape our own.  

The other side of the coin in this active shaping of our own destiny is responsibility and understanding we shape our life with our choices.

So on that note, I wish you an enlightened solar 2012 year of choices that will make us better human beings.

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23
Dec

“Dancing with the Stars” and the Acquisition of True Beauty

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Reflections & Observations

JR_Martinez_Teaches_Us_About_Chanukah

Written by Debbie Isaacman

Dancing with the Stars is one of my favorite shows! I look forward to watching the

glitzy and dazzling costumes, the music which moves us to feel such a wide range of emotions from the quick paced rhythmic beats to the lyrical flow of music used for the waltz. Then of course there are the dancers themselves who come on stage every week and rise to the challenge of performing. The competition has the potential to facilitate not only the progress of dancing technique but also the personal growth and development of the contestants themselves!

From the moment one particular contestant took to the stage, he won my heart and that of many others as well. He was not your conventionally “handsome” celebrity but by virtue of the fact that he was a participant in this competion, showed that he had a winning combination of courage and charisma that was going to take him far. Not many people with a severely distorted and scared face would feel confident walking onto a dance-floor where their “unconventional” physical features would be seen by millions. JR Martinez had been a soldier who was involved in a landmine explosion while in Iraq. His injuries were very severe and it was not clear if he would make it. He did survive but in many ways he wished that he hadn’t after he saw what his face and body looked like.

I could identify with JR’s struggle as I too have a somewhat “unique physical appearance difference.” I was born with the radius bone missing in each of my arms, making my forearms somewhat smaller than everybody else’s. My doctor told me if you are to miss a bone, the radius is the way to go as it does not connect to the elbow which thankfully gives me the flexibility of movement and allows me to be completely functional. It has been pretty challenging going through life looking distinctly different especially in a world where beauty is a very sought after commodity. Many women will go to extraordinary lengths to achieve this state of beauty including having plastic surgeries and Botox treatment to ensure their physical beauty stays in tact. This preoccupation with physical beauty has a history going back to ancient times.

The Ancient Greeks or Hellenists, the protagonists in the Chanukah story, put great emphasis on the body and physical perfection. They were the ones who created the Olympic Games which was an arena to celebrate the human form and its accomplishments. One’s worth in this culture was dependent on outside appearance and physical form which by its nature is temporary and as such will eventually disappear. The Ancient Greeks did not learn the lesson that Jewish wisdom has always taught which is that beauty is not what you look like on the outside but who you choose to develop yourself to be from the inside. JR Martinez made a choice not to be defined by his physical appearance but rather it is through his courage, determination and fighting spirit that a special kind of beauty radiates.

We all go through life as soldiers fighting the toughest war of all and that is the one we wage with ourselves. The Chanukah story is all about triumph against the enemy by accessing those qualities which we have to draw from the depths of our being. When this occurs and we know and understand our worth in the world, then miracles can begin to happen. When we have come out of our own battlefields scarred by the experiences we have had and choose to use the light we contain within, we truly become shining stars in the world. We can use the Macabees, as our role models who have taught us how each one of us has the potential to be a hero in the world. We can see JR Martinez living this message today. He teaches us that despite obstacles and adversity that challenge our lives, we have the capacity to radiate light out into the world as he has done.

As you watch the candles flicker, know that the flames you see are a reflection of the light that shines within you and that is where true beauty lies!

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14
Dec

The Gift of the View

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

The-View_From_The_Window

I received the following story in an email from Dr Menachem Seuss HaKohen:

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room.

One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs.

His bed was next to the room’s only window.

The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end.

They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation..

Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window.

The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside.

The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake.

Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance.

As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene.

One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by.

Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words.

Days, weeks and months passed.

One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep.

She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away.

As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside.

He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed.

It faced a blank wall.

The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window.

The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

She said, ‘Perhaps he just wanted to encourage you.’

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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.

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9
Dec

“Humor Can Save the Day” by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

Contagious Laughter

Sometimes humor can take a serious situation and turn it around.

A few years ago I was working with a senior Human Resources executive and he told me the following story.

He was the HR specialist for a large hospital and was in charge of negotiating with the union. However, in this particular negotiation, bitterness was evident on the side of the union, including racist and anti-Semitic remarks. The executive went to the president of the hospital and told him to bring in an outside arbitrator to settle the issue. The president asked him to go back one more time and see if he could work out a deal.

When the union representatives came into the meeting room, the management people were on one side of the table. So the union people sat on their side, but there was one person who did not have a seat because there were not enough chairs. The HR guy noticed there was an empty seat on the management side. So he offered to have the woman sit in the chair. As she went around the table the union people said to her, “Don’t let them poison your mind.”

When she sat down the executive said to his people, “Okay everyone .Sing. Help me Rhonda, help, help me Rhonda (a big hit song at the time). Everyone laughed and the tension was broken. The meeting ended with a successful completed negotiation.

Why did this work? And is this humor? After all, it was a song. So it is important to define humor. Humor, rather than being a series of jokes, has a broader definition. Humor is anything that puts a spirit of fun into the proceedings. And it does not have to produce a huge laugh. The most important attribute of humor in these situations is how it makes the participants feel after the laugh has subsided. A warmer, closer feeling.

Another point about humor is that it contains an element of surprise. If you hear a joke the second time you probably won’t laugh because you already know the punch line. So any surprise, for example, like a song, will bring a smile to someone’s face.

In this case, people who were not very friendly found a common way to relieve the tension. The song was also a subtle tribute to Rhonda, implying she had the power to help. It was a subtle complement to the union side.

The fact that this particular act of humor helped in a tense situation speaks to the awesome power of humor.

In the mid-1980s, the United States arrested an accused Soviet spy. In retaliation, the Soviet Union arrested a reporter for the Wall Street journal. There was a scheduled summit meeting between U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze in Moscow to discuss nuclear arms limitations. The U.S. Senate voted a sense of the Senate resolution that Shultz should not go to Moscow as long as the journalist was being held. The president and George Schultz felt that arms limitations talks were important enough for him to go.

When Schultz walked into the negotiating room in Moscow, the atmosphere was tense. He pulled out a tape recorder and played a song, “Georgia on my mind” sung in Russian. Eduard Shevardnadze was from the Republic of Georgia. At the first break he went to Schultz and said, “Thank you George, that showed respect.” Even in tense international negotiations, humor saved the day because it was an acknowledgment of Shevardnadze’s home.

In the early 1970s I was a media buyer at a large advertising agency. This meant that I negotiated with salespeople from TV and radio on whether and where to place my client’s advertisements. This was the time when women were first coming into the workplace in corporate America and the first women who were salespeople for these organizations had to be very good.

A large television network hired a very smart woman to be their first saleswoman. She was very competent, but because she wanted to be taken seriously, she had no sense of humor. She also wore her hair in a bun, so that no hint of femininity would distract from her seriousness. I never felt comfortable bantering with her, and her face usually showed no expression. Most salespeople want to make the client feel comfortable. She made me uncomfortable.

One day she was in my office and she said something that prompted me to respond with a funny quip. She laughed heartily and her stiff face melted into a warm glow. From that time on, we got along famously. A quip that make someone laugh out loud is like sand blasting a rock.

Use humor with forethought. It has enormous power to defuse a tense situation.

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