From the Desk of Rabbi Weisblum

These articles by Rabbi Weisblum are published in 17 area newspapers.

December 18, 2022   November 23, 2022   November 9, 2022   September 22, 2022   August 26, 2022   

December 18, 2022   

Dear Friends,

On Sunday evening, December 18th, Jews around the world will come together to light the first candle of Hanukkah, otherwise known as The Festival of Lights. At its heart, this uplifting holiday is about the achievement of justice in the face of overwhelming odds. It is an opportunity to reflect on the triumph of liberty over tyranny, and in fact that miracles can happen even in the darkest moments. Though they were outnumbered in people and in means, the Maccabees’ dedication to their cause was unwavering, and thus these brave warriors emerged victorious over an oppressive Greek regime.

Hanukkah is the only Jewish holiday that celebrates a military victory. Because there is a tension in the Jewish tradition between the responsibility to defend the right to religious freedom and the reluctance to bear arms, the ancient Maccabees fought only when doing so was vital for survival. They went forth with great faith in our Creator, believing, in the words of our biblical prophet, Isiah, that “not by might and not by power but by the spirit of the Holy One” would they achieve victory. While fully knowing that it was their responsibility to fight for what mattered to them, the Maccabees also hoped for miracles and prayed for wisdom.

Their small beam of hope became a huge radiance of triumph and everlasting happiness for the Jewish people. This shining light, which burned continuously both in their hearts and in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem back then, illuminates Jewish homes and synagogues throughout the world today. The glow of the menorah reminds us of a just and loving Creator’s blessing, and of the countless sacrifices made over the centuries for faith and freedom. As American Jews, we owe a special debt of gratitude to the United States, for its offering us the greatest freedom of religious expression in our history.

During the eight days of Hanukkah, let us all be inspired by the knowledge that light can overcome darkness. During this season of light, let’s all renew our commitment to hope and to pray, to work and to sacrifice, and to bring about that blessed time when religious freedom will be a right, not just a dream, for all of humankind. May our readiness to defend ourselves never undermine our commitment to “seek peace and pursue it” and may this holiday season be a time of hope, happiness, peace and unity for all mankind. Amen!

Happy Hanukkah!
Rabbi Dr. Moshe P. Weisblum

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November 23, 2022   

Thanksgiving Greeting

John Adams, Second President of the U.S. sent a moving letter to Francois A. Van der Kemp, who was one of the Dutch radical leaders of the Patriot Party. Van de Kemp was also a minister and publicist who gave the Patriot movement a Christian tint in his blazing speeches. I quote the following from Adam’s letter to Van der Kemp:

"I will insist the Hebrews have [contributed] more to civilize men than any other nation. If I was an atheist and believed in blind eternal fate, I should still believe that fate had ordained the Jews to be the most essential instrument for civilizing the nations … They are the most glorious nation that ever inhabited this Earth.

The Romans and their empire were but a bubble in comparison to the Jews. They have given religion to three-quarters of the globe and have influenced the affairs of mankind more and more happily than any other nation, ancient or modern."

Let me share with you the words of the late renown Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living. It is all we can offer in return for the mystery by which we live. Who is worthy to be present at the constant unfolding of time? Amidst the meditation of mountains, the humility of flowers—wiser than all alphabets—clouds that die constantly for the sake of God’s glory, we are hating, hunting, hurting. Suddenly we feel ashamed of our clashes and complaints in the face of the tacit glory in nature. It is so embarrassing to live! How strange we are in the world, and how presumptuous our doings! Only one response can maintain us: gratefulness for witnessing the wonder, for the gift of our unearned right to serve, to adore, and to fulfill. It is gratefulness which makes the soul great."

It would have been so easy for the pilgrims of 1621 to focus on what they didn’t have. Yet, their story reminds us that any moment is one to focus on what we have been given and to say thank you for it. Each day in this week of Thanksgiving and beyond – we say the words of the Psalmist Hodu - Give thanks to our Creator for it is good.

As we sit to eat our turkey (which in modern Hebrew is the same word – hodu), may we know just how good is our bounty, and how great is our blessing. We should celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving EVERY DAY and through our behavior, we will show our unlimited appreciation to the true Source of all our blessings.

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November 9, 2022   

A New Year - A New Mindset - A Fresh Look at Faith

There are incidents in the Bible illustrating the power of mindset. In the Song of Songs, King Solomon describes the mindset of a virtuous woman: "She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the law of kindness is on her tongue." The way we internalize our mindset may affect the actions we take, and the expectations we set for ourselves.

What's holding us back, many times, is our own thinking. If you think you've reached your limits, then you have. If you think the problem is too big, then it is. If you think you'll never meet the right person, you probably won't. Change your mindset! Start believing in the good, living life with hope, and expecting better results. Remember that the Almighty can do anything! He took David, a shepherd boy from a low-income family, and turned him into a king. He gave Abraham and Sarah a baby when they were nearing 100 years of age.

One's mindset has the power to be an instrument of peace-or to cut like a knife. While leading the people toward the promised land of Israel in his final days, Moses eloquently delivers one of the most stirring orations in the Torah, encouraging the people and guiding them towards the future. As a child, Moses developed a speech impediment. To spare him embarrassment, his brother, Aaron, delivered many of Moses's discourses. But, for his farewell address, Moses spoke directly to the people. His words to the Israelites were fierce and poetic, to better ensure that they will remember their covenant with their Creator. As Moses speaks, we retrace the steps of his personal life journey, and witness his spiritual growth. Moses shows us that even the very end of life is not too late to improve ourselves and call on others to change.

From his early years as a stuttering toddler, to the moral tests of his youth in Pharaoh's palace, to his trials as leader of a wandering people, to his ultimate, inspiring address to the nation at the threshold of the Holy Land, Moses demonstrates that a human being can overcome obstacles, and master fears. How is this accomplished? As Moses himself stresses in his final speech, one can exhibit patience, conquer hardships and achieve self-mastery simply by connecting to the Creator.

What we say and how we say it matters. A new mindset - the right choice of words and inflection - inspires and unites others. But proper mindset can also be achieved without words. We can communicate non-verbally, using our hands, eyes, body language, and tone of voice.

In today’s technological age, we communicate instantaneously through social media, e-mail, and our cell phones. We are never out of reach or out of touch.

All of us have gone through disappointments and suffered setbacks that have caused us to lower our expectations and water down our dreams. We've let what hasn't worked out for us serve as an excuse to settle for where we are. Instead of allowing our troubles to stymie us, we must trust that the challenges our Creator places before us are only temporary, and that they are ultimately for our own good. After all, our Creator wants what’s best for us. We know that, as long as we are receptive to it, "The Almighty will open the windows of heaven and pour out blessings that [we] cannot contain." Do you truly believe that will be the case, or is your thinking limiting your life?

Don't go into this new year with low expectations. Have a bigger vision. Get your hopes up! When undesirable thoughts intrude, "It's too late. It's been too long. It's never going to happen. It's just going to be an average year, with nothing good in store," - change your mindset! Tell yourself, "This is going to be a blessed year, a bountiful year, a favor-filled year. Something good is going to happen to me and I can't wait to experience it!" Like the ancient Israelites, believe that the fetters that have held you back have now been broken. Meet life with great anticipation because you're about to go into your Promised Land.


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September 22, 2022   

Rosh Hashanah 5783

Former NASA Astronaut James A. Lovell said, "There are people who make things happen, there are people who watch things happen and there are people who wonder what happened. To be successful, you need to be a person that makes things happen." We have the power to make good things happen. Each year, we approach the Jewish Holidays with high expectations and anticipation. Why not? It is a time for new beginnings, ones we can create for ourselves. In just a few days, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the sound of the shofar blasts will be heard. It is a time for the High Holidays; time that we gather with our families, neighbors and friends and concentrate on prayer and introspection. A time to give thanks for the ways in which we have been blessed and strive to improve our relationships by asking forgiveness and making amends. These are the Days of Awe to acknowledge the Almighty as the creator and ruler of the universe; renew and strengthen our commitment to a spiritual way of life, and pray for a sweet new year—a healthy and peaceful year. Make no mistake - this is no easy task. We can choose to become the authors of our own chapter in the Book of Life or a passive puppet.

We all have a choice. Each one of us has the free will to decide how to direct our thoughts and actions. Each of us can choose to hold on firmly to the principles and values of faith and gratitude. Each of us can choose to do one more good deed, one more act of kindness, to help tip the balance of the world toward life.

On Rosh Hashanah, we look to our past, as well as to our future, for the growing of spiritual strength as well as staying committed to a positive energy way of life. We reach back into our collective history to draw inspiration and to learn from the wisdom of our heritage. At the same time, we look ahead toward future generations, knowing that what we choose for our own lives today will affect our children, our children’s children, and, indeed, the future of the world. When we choose to align our way of life with the divine presence, we are doing our part to help create a society that is humane and G-dly. We are fighting the darkness of the world with the light of our good deeds.

This is a time of return, or repentance when we are focused on the process of improving ourselves and coming closer to the Almighty. By actively engaging ourselves through self-evaluation, reconciliation, prayer and giving an extra measure of charity—we are choosing life, just as the generation in the desert did after they heard the Biblical Moses’s message. Hopefully then we will see the good that emerges even in the midst of darkness, and we will recognize that every one of us has the power to make meaningful changes by the choices that we make.

As the High Holidays begin, we look back on all the moments during the past year that give us reason for hope. Around the world, a new generation is reaching for their universal healing of the pandemic and all its consequences.

In our community, we’ve responded to our challenges by focusing on what really matters–education, friendship, family and community.

This last year was one of hardship for people everywhere. Too many of our friends and neighbors continue to struggle in the wake of difficult health and economic challenges. And beyond our borders, many of our closest allies, face the uncertainties of an unpredictable age.

As Jewish tradition teaches us, we may not complete the work, but that must never keep all of us from trying. In that spirit, I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness and peace. L’Shana Tova Umetuka

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August 26, 2022   

No Shortcuts Along Life's Journey

One of my favorite ancient parables involves the story of an indigent woman whose children were constantly starving. One day, she came home with an egg. Lovingly, she gathered her excited children and said: "Dear children, you have nothing to worry about. I found this egg! But listen to me closely. Even though we may we hungry, we are not just going to eat it. Instead, I’m going to give it to my neighbor, so that his hen can hatch the egg. Then, we will let the chick grow up – but even then, we won't eat it. Instead, we will wait for it to lay more eggs and when those eggs hatch, we will have many chickens. Eventually, we’ll sell the chickens and buy a nice cow. But we won’t eat the cow either. We’ll simply wait for it to birth its calves and afterwards we will sell the cows and buy a large field. And because of our patience, we’ll be rewarded with bounty, and we won’t be hungry anymore!" As she talked, the woman got so animated that the egg fell from her hands and broke.

Many of us love to travel. When we visit new places, we often reflect on our lives and compare them to those of others. In this way, traveling often becomes more about self-discovery than about seeing new sights.

Our lives are a journey of introspection and reflection. In order to have a fulfilling life in the present, we must reflect on our past. Imagine a loving parent whose son becomes ill and needs to be taken to a doctor in a far-off land. Once cured, the parent and the son return home. As they travel from place to place, the parent reminds the son of all that transpired on their journey. “Here we rested, here you became very sick, here you had a headache. Nothing was accidental or pure chance. Every step along the way was essential. The journey was just as important as our arrival, and there could be no shortcuts along the way."

Often in life, we are so focused on our goals, that we fail to cherish the process of getting there. We must remember that our experiences are just as important as where they lead us to. Sometimes, we need to take our eye off the prize and think about all that has happened in the course of our journeys.

Our lives are transient and ephemeral. To really treasure them properly we must value the in between moments too. Because it’s not just about planning for the future – it’s about living the present fully as well.

In today’s fast-paced world we are constantly looking for shortcuts. We always seem to be in a rush to accomplish our goals in the quickest and most efficient way possible. Often, we are so busy planning ahead that we forget to focus on where we are right now. Eleanor Roosevelt said: "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow is a mystery. Today is a gift. That’s why we call it 'The Present'." Remember, life is like rope: you can grab only the piece in front of you. With that in mind, take hold of the present, appreciate it completely and only then begin to plan for the future!

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