DISCIPLINE: At any moment, we can do some act of self-control (especially in what we say, eat, buy, etc.). COURAGE: We can manifest courage by "doing the difficult" – especially difficult acts of chesed and fighting for justice. BENEFIT OF THE DOUBT: Unless we are dealing with an evil person, we can assume that the people who hurt us are not doing so out of any evil intention to harm, but are simply tired, forgetful, unaware or overwhelmed with other matters. Love Yehuda Lave
I keep reminding myself that people are always giving whatever they can give, to the best of their ability, at every given moment.
It was a great relief to stop being an emotional beggar, always dissatisfied and frustrated that people weren't filling my beggar's bowl. Paradoxically, when I appreciated them for what they could give, it seemed suddenly that people wanted to give me more - if they were capable of doing so.
Monday and Tuesday next Week are Rosh Hashanah. Wendesday is Zom Gedaliah. Please write me if you have any questions about the holidays. Chabad always has free services, so you don't have to buy a seat at a syngagoue but it is always nice to support your local synaggouge.
I never realized how saying "thank you" is such an integral part of our Jewish tradition, until I was doing my weekly reading of the Torah, and I was struck by the way Jews thank. Well, to be honest, I always knew about the farmer's mitzvah to say "thank you" by bringing his bikkurim—the first of his produce—as a form of thanks to G‑d. What I didn't pay attention to in the past was the extensive language of his obligatory thanks:
And you shall call out and say before G‑d, your G‑d, "An Aramean [Laban] sought to destroy my father [Jacob], and he went down to Egypt and lived there with a small number of people, and there he became a great, mighty and numerous nation. And the Egyptians treated us cruelly and afflicted us, and they imposed hard labor upon us. And we cried out to G‑d, the G‑d of our fathers, and G‑d heard our voice, and He saw our affliction, our labor and our oppression. And G‑d brought us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, O G‑d, have given to me . . ."
I wondered whether this was not a case of the Bible getting carried away
When I first read this verbose thank-you, I wondered whether this was not a case of the Bible getting carried away with some flowery poetry. Couldn't G‑d have given the poor farmer who traveled all the way to Jerusalem a simpler way of saying "thank you"?
But upon reflection, I realized that the Torah was actually giving us a great lesson in humanity. Saying "thank you" should never be some brief line that we were taught to say by rote. "Don't forget to say thank you and please," I hear many parents telling their children. Which is great, but there is more to thanking than just the fulfillment of some social convention and responsibility. Saying thanks is a full realization of the context of the gift or kindness that we have received and of the history behind it, and is an expression of our inner appreciation of the gift.
When we thank our parents, spouse or friends, we need to take into consideration what these people have done for us, not only today but in the past. We need to consider the words that we offer, so that it paints a full picture of our sincere appreciation for what we have been given.
I am a Reform Jew and am now looking to get married. I went to a few Jewish dating sites, and I saw some profiles which say "permitted to a Kohen." I am a Kohen, and therefore this caught my attention. What exactly are they talking about?
The Aish Rabbi Replies:
A Kohen is not allowed to marry a divorcee, a convert, or someone classified as a "zonah." (see Leviticus 21:14; Talmud – Kiddushin 78a; Maimonides – Forbidden Relations 18:3)
A "zonah" is defined as a woman who had intimate relations with a man whom she was forbidden to marry according to Jewish law – e.g. adultery, incest, or relations with a non-Jew.
A Kohen is forbidden to marry these women, not because she is a bad person, but because there is metaphysical reality that is created which prevents a Kohen from being able to create the proper bond. Consider that H2O is water, and H2O2 is Hydrogen Peroxide. The difference may seem negligible, but is actually the difference is between life and death.
This is a very serious issue, and if a Kohen goes ahead and marries someone that he is not allowed to be married to, he is transgressing a Torah commandment every minute he remains married to her.
On a practical level, the kohanim, who are charged with being the spiritual leaders and role models for all of Jewry, must preserve a more scrutinizing level of holiness. The fact that a particular Kohen today may not see himself in such a lofty role does not diminish his obligation to live up to that.
There is another issue, however. It is important to check if the "Kohen" is a real "Kohen." How reliable is the Kohanic tradition in the family? Just because someone's last name is "Cohen" does not mean that he necessarily has the status of a Kohen. To be considered a Kohen, one must have an unbroken tradition, as well as other factors too numerous to mention here. (Nevertheless, most people who have the name Cohen also have the status as Kohen.)
Also, it may be that the Kohen is really a "chalal." If his mother, paternal grandmother, etc., was forbidden to marry a Kohen, in that case the resulting son would be a chalal, not a Kohen – thereby disqualifying the "Kohen" (and his subsequent descendents) from the regular Kohanic rights and obligations.
Bottom line: If you have any questions about your status, or about that of any particular young woman, you need to speak with a reliable authority in Jewish law.
[Joseph] dreamt another dream ... the sun, moon, and the eleven stars were bowing before me (Genesis 37:9).
Joseph dreamt of greatness, and he achieved it. Still, he paid a steep price for that greatness, suffering years of enslavement and imprisonment.
Some people are satisfied with their status quo and choose not to rock the boat. Others are dreamers, people of great ambition.
Dreams and fantasy are very different. Fantasy is mere wishful thinking, something we know is beyond reach, but a dream is something that may be in the remote future, yet is conceivably achievable.
Suppose Joseph had known that, in order to obtain the promise of the dream, he would have to endure years of suffering. Would he have foregone the greatness, or would he have accepted the pain? Since Joseph understood the dream to be a revelation of the Divine plan for him, he undoubtedly would have chosen to accept the suffering it entailed.
We may be frequently confronted with a decision whether to resign ourselves to the status quo or to try to advance ourselves at considerable cost. We should avail ourselves of expert counseling and pray for Divine guidance to know what the Divine plan for us is. If we feel secure in the knowledge that God wants us to advance to our optimum potential, we should not retreat because of the personal cost entailed.
Infants are fortunate; they do not have to choose whether to remain toothless or to accept the distress of teething. While we do have such choices, we also have the wisdom to make the right choice.
Today I shall ... ...
pray for enlightenment as to what is God's will for me and for the fortitude and courage to achieve it.
Free High Holiday Services at Thousands of Chabad Synagogues
Continuing a decades-long tradition that has offered countless Jewish families and individuals a place to worship
The sanctuary of the historic B'nai Abraham synagogue in central Philadelphia. It will again open its doors to worshippers free of charge for the High Holidays this year. To be sure, donations are recommeded for those who can afford it, but like thousands of Chabad synagogues, no one is turned away for financial reasons. It is a model that has been emulated by other Jewish houses of worship around the world.
The calendar is turning to September, and the anticipation is palpable. Jewish men and women the world over—and certainly, the children, too—are preparing for Rosh Hashanah. Meals are in the works, new clothes have been laid out, crafts and projects have been made.
And, of course, people are readying themselves for services and synagogue programs of all kinds.
But what happens when a family or individual, for one reason or another, has no regular shul to attend? What happens when they find themselves in a new town or in economic straits or, perhaps, decide at the last minute that they want to attend services?
Continuing a decades-long tradition that has drawn countless Jews into synagogues for the Jewish high holidays, Chabad-Lubavitch will hold thousands of free High Holiday services around the world as part of a model that has no dues and no membership—a model that other synagogues and organizations around the world are looking to replicate.
The message is: "Come one, come all. We will not turn you away."
"I feel that, especially if it is the first time a person comes to a shul, you want them to be comfortable and not think, 'Oh, I have to pay for it,' " says Rabbi Yitzchok Raskin, co-director of Chabad of Vermont in Burlington, Vt., with his wife, Zeesy. "We want people to get involved and get closer to Yiddishkeit."
Since fees can wind up an obstacle, he continues, "we are helping them out on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when most people want to come to synagogue."
Enter Chabad, Literally
Chabad of Vermont will welcome about 100 people for services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, quite an increase from the 30 or 40 for a typical Shabbat. The Raskins will also host a communal meal on Rosh Hashanah; a donation of $36 is requested, but anyone is welcome to attend.
It is Chabad's firm belief that Jewish traditions and customs are the birthright of every Jew, and that every Jew should have access to them.
This year's services bring added significance as Jewish communities worldwide celebrate the year of Hakhel, a time to promote Jewish unity and learning. Throughout the year, Jewish synagogues and organizations will host communal gatherings for men, women and children dedicated to encouraging the observance and study of Torah.
After all, it is Chabad's firm belief that Jewish traditions and customs are the birthright of every Jew, and that every Jew should have access to them.
"The idea that you have someone at the door and don't let a person in because they don't have a ticket is simply ridiculous," says Rabbi Yisroel Fried, program director with his wife, EstherMiriam, at Chabad of the West Side in New York. "Everyone has to be allowed into shul to daven."
Room for Everyone
So why charge a fee at all?
"We like people to reserve a space by buying a seat because sometimes we are so full we can't guarantee one," the rabbi explains. "But if someone can't afford it or money is tight, we don't hold people to the requested amount."
Chabad of the West Side can easily fit 250 people around tables in the sanctuary and can add more chairs along the walls, "but it gets really tight space-wise, especially for Kol Nidre and Neilah on Yom Kippur," says Fried. "Sometimes, we have some people just standing."
He notes that the synagogue has been asking for a seat fee for more than a decade, and that most people understand the need to do so.
"We do it in the lightest way possible, and everyone is guaranteed to come in," he stresses.
High Holiday services this fall bring added significance as Jewish communities worldwide celebrate the year of Hakhel, a time to promote Jewish unity and learning.
Chabad Houses that cannot accommodate the overflow holiday attendance often rent hotels or other spaces so all can come and pray for the holidays, and bring friends and family members. While a number of Chabad emissaries may have a donor who steps forward to underwrite the costs, most will ask for a nominal fee to help offset the charges.
Still, at the end of the day, Chabad emissaries prefer not to charge anything, and rabbis say that should never be the caveat for attending or not attending. Come one, come all—they'll make the room.
Such is the case at the Chabad of Waukesha-Brookfield in Wisconsin, co-directed by Rabbi Levi and Freida Brook. While people are asked to RSVP for High Holiday services, the registration page makes clear that all donations are optional.
"Participation in all High Holiday programs is free," says a note on the webpage. "Consider a donation to help cover the costs of these and other wonderful and vital programs that Chabad of Waukesha-Brookfield brings to our community."
Rabbi Brook believes that affiliation in the Jewish community, especially for the High Holidays, shouldn't come with any kind of price tag.
"We try and have no dues, even though we do have people come every week," he says. "That's not to say dues are a bad thing, but I don't want someone to be in a situation where they get turned away because of what is or what is not in their wallet."
To find out more about High Holiday services and programs at a Chabad center near you, visit the directory here.
The doors to Chabad-Lubavitch centers in North America and throughout the world are open for the High Holidays, offering free services to Jewish people, like at Chabad of Vermont in Burlington.