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Community updates and personal thoughts to share...

Parshat Beshalach 5774

Rebbe.jpgThis Shabbat celebrates one of the most important days in the modern Chabad calendar. It is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Joseph Isaac Shneersohn, the 'previous' Chabad Rebbe, who maintained a strong Jewish infrastructure all throughout the communist era in the Former Soviet Union, risking his life doing it (in fact, being imprisoned and sentenced to death, only to be freed and extradited by open miracles)... The Previous Rebbe then came to the shores of America, where he famously declared that "America is No Different" and immediately put all his efforts into building Jewish schools, mikvas and communities all throughout the US and Canada. He passed away on the 10th of Shvat in 1950.

His son in law, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Shneersohn seemed to be the only man capable of taking over the Chabad mantle of leadership. For the first year following the passing he flatly refused the position, but exactly one year later, on the 10th day of Shvat, 1951, the Rebbe - as he so lovingly came to be known - finally accepted the position of Rebbe.

Over the next forty years, the Rebbe would carry the burdens of a broken generation of Jews that survived the worst horrors imaginable, not only comforting them, but encouraging them to maintain and grow in their Divine Service of G-d.

Indeed, the Rebbe transformed world Jewry so radically, that nowadays, there is not a single country in the world today that hasn't seen the effects of the Rebbe's vision. Many have said that in all of Jewish history since Moses, not a single individual has impacted world Jewry as much as the Rebbe did during his forty four years in this physical world.

In fact, as baffling as it is, since the Rebbe's passing in 1994, the movement that he grew has literally exploded into the tremendous organization that it is today, with over 4500 Chabad Rabbis in almost every corner of the globe, spreading the love and passion of the Rebbe to every single Jew and making this world ready for the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days.

Torah Portion of Vayakhel and Pekudei

Video Blog - Torah Portion of Beshalach

Video of the Week - Toldot

In G-d we Trust

This past week, the GOP Republican convention in Tampa, Florida took place. Yes, Presidential elections are back in the news and what an exciting fight that always turns out to be. If you like watching Wrestling, Boxing and Ultimate Fighting matches, then the US Presidential elections is like the longest and most exciting match to keep up with. Take a huge tub of popcorn and watch the news for the next five months. The drama, tension and emotional rushes are sure to keep you entertained. 

InGodWeTrust.jpgBut on a serious note and, keeping away from taking a political stand, I did find one of the speeches in particular to be quite moving. Marco Rubio, a Senator from Florida gave one of the introductory speeches, and in it, he proudly declares faith in G-d as one of the cornerstones of American life. 

"We are special because we've been united not by a common race or ethnicity. We're bound together by common values. That family is the most important institution in society. That Almighty G-d is the source of all we have," Rubio stated. 

He continued, "Special, because we've never made the mistake of believing that we are so smart that we can rely solely on our leaders or our government. Our national motto is "In G-d we Trust," reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American  value of all." 

What a bold statement to make! Nowadays, it is quite rare for a politician to take such a stand. Invoking G-d's blessing, declaring our unwavering faith and trust in G-d Almighty seems to be swiftly moving to the brink of extinction in American politics. Unfortunately, many seem to think that G-d is too ancient an idea to bring along in our progressing society. 

Many forget that faith in G-d was one of the founding principles upon which America was founded. It is also an idea that is so central to the success of America. Just look at what is engraved on every single US coin. "In G-d we Trust." Without trust in G-d, we are nothing. 

Trust in G-d is crucial from a religious as well as ideological perspective. But to a significant degree, I think it is also a fundamental element that allows us to excel and become successful, making it crucial on a selfish level too. 

When one has absolute trust in G-d, then the problems in life, those realities which tend to challenge us and 'ruin our days' don't seem impossible to overcome anymore. Having faith brings a calm to our lives. It makes us content and grateful for what we were given, as well as giving us something to lean on when we are hit with struggles and challenges. If G-d is watching over us and G-d is good, then whatever is to happen in life - even if it is beyond my understanding, - is for the best. So it's not worth it to stress and sweat the challenges. 

I always found the words In G-d we Trust engraved on the coins to be a very impressive display of faith. Of all places to declare that belief, putting it on money seems to be the most gutsy. They could have kept it in the constitution or printed it on their flags, but they chose to put it on their money. It says lots about the values of a country, when they put belief in G-d on the thing that tends to pull us as far away from G-d as possible. Perhaps the most stressful challenge in life is the pursuit of money. Money can be looked at as idolatry, when considering how much it is served and coveted, taking priority to holier, loftier pursuits. By remembering that it is ultimately G-d who decides how much money we will earn and how our lives will turn out - always for our best, - then we are able to maximize our potentials, becoming better spouses, friends, businessmen and people. 

So if times are tough for you, (especially here in Cabo, where everyone is bracing themselves for a month or two of quiet and lack of cash flow,) remember that even money declares our trust in G-d almighty and his wonderful plan to life. It will all turn out for the best, I promise.

What makes us Special?


As a Jew and descendant of Abraham, I often wonder if our history is something to be proud of. Yes, it is true that we have a very rich and inspiring history and we should be proud of that. But what about our sinful times? Should we not be ashamed of our ancestors that left Egypt with the greatest of miracles, witnessed the greatest revelation of G-d at Mount Sinai and yet complained, constructed and served an idol and acted immorally throughout their 40 year sojourn in the desert?! Why does the Torah 'hang our dirty laundry' to the world, recounting in detail the various sins that we've committed as a people!? Where is the 'Holy Jew', the 'Chosen People' when they are acting as lowly as the rest of humanity?

I don't know if I have the right answer to this question. Perhaps because these negative behaviors of our great-grandparents is indeed something worthy of being ashamed of. But I believe that one of our virtues as a people is the very fact that we could handle criticism and negative portrayal. In fact, I think if one were to look at our history, not only does criticism not affect us negatively, but it makes us stronger and better. Even nowadays, look how horribly the Jewish Holy Land of Israel is portrayed. Every little questionable act that Israel does is unfairly magnified and criticized by  all nations. As a famous writer once said: If one were to innocently look at at all the condemnations against Countries' atrocities and war-crimes that were issued by the United Nations, he would conclude that the State of Israel must be of the most vile, inhumane, barbaric and torturous states to ever exist on the face of the planet.

Israel's record of condemnation by the United Nations far surpasses that of any other nation in the world. Yes, even real cruel countries like Syria, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, China and North Korea receive less criticism from the UN than that of tiny, democratic Israel.  

And yet, does the Jewish nation quietly sulk in the corner, shriveled up in a ball of crushed self esteem and humiliation? Absolutely not! Israel is thriving like never before. Israel allows for criticism. In fact, it embraces criticism and grows from it. That is what I believe to be the secret to the Jewish People. 

What other religion so openly recounts all the sins that the founders committed? Even sensibly, if someone were to invent a religion, I suppose they would do their utmost to hide the negative aspect. They would paint a beautiful, sublime religion devoid of any faults or failures. Yet of all religions and nations, Judaism and the Torah speak truth. They admit to wrongdoings and grow from them. 

I suggest you read through this week's Torah portion of Eikev, see the admonishment that Moses throws upon us and grow from it. Moses, before his passing, chooses to give us the best help we could get. He tells us what we did wrong. His criticism is heavy, but he knows that we can handle it. 

It is precisely our knowledge and admission  to our faults as a nation that allows us to change and grow to a bright future ahead. 

Make an honest account of what your negative characteristics would be as a person. Then change and become better. It's that simple. 

Confronting challenges - Vayigash

 Who hasn't ever been up against a challenge that seemed too impossible to overcome? All the odds are against you and every way you turn predicts your shameful failure. 

How to react? How to find the good in such a scenario? Are our challenges trying to break us? Are they our enemies pushing for our absolute destruction? 

Well, let's have a look at an intriguing tale of our ancestors that is found in the past few weeks Torah portions, culminating in the explosive, emotional ending this week; Joseph, the beloved son to Jacob is sold as a slave to Egypt by his jealous brothers.  

Unbeknownst to his brothers and family back home, Joseph miraculously finds himself in the position of Viceroy of Egypt, second to the Pharaoh himself. With a global famine raging throughout the world, Egypt is the only source of provisions for everyone, which subsequently makes Joseph one of the most powerful people in the entire world. 

Now the brothers, hungry and in need of food come knocking on Joseph's door and ask him to sell them some grain. Joseph recognizes them and makes their life miserable. He demands to see their youngest brother Benjamin, whom they had left at home. When the brothers return with Benjamin, Joseph plants his goblet into Benjamin's sack of food and later accuses Benjamin of stealing and brings him back to Egypt as a slave. 

This is when the brothers are at wits end. They have been pushed to the very limit and have no way of returning to their elderly father without Benjamin. Jacob will surely die of grief if Benjamin were to go missing too. 

And what happens next? When everything seems all but lost, when the sun seems to have set for eternity, in a sweeping instant, Joseph breaks down crying and reveals to his brothers that not only is he not their enemy, but he is actually their long lost brother and wishes only for their good!! 

What a beautiful story! But something to think about is how we relate to such a tale... When we are faced with challenges in life, do we actually know what the inner meaning is? Could it be that the very difficulty we are facing is not there to break us down and ruin us, but is there to strengthen and empower us? Have you ever been through a crisis only to discover that the problem itself was benefiting you? 

Perhaps the forces of the world that move against us are in essence our long lost brothers who are waiting for the moment when we are ready to see the real reality behind everything...  

I believe that a time is coming when we will indeed see the meaning behind everything in life... A time when we will be able to appreciate the difficulties and trying times that were hurdled at us during our lives... A time when Joseph and his brothers will reunite and their inner connection will be felt once more, may it be speedily in our days with the imminent arrival of Mashiach, Amen!

Journeys and success

 images.jpgWhat is the secret to our continued existence? Why has the Jew survived, even thrived throughout thousands of years. If you ask me, it is probably one of the biggest and most mysterious phenomenons around. The Jew, the image of humanity that has been beaten, tortured, slaughtered, humiliated and banished throughout our long, exiled history. Yet, the majority of significant breakthroughs and successful ventures still remain exclusive to this suppressed nation. Instead of surrendering to the contstant abuse throughout the ages, we continue to spring back to the top, contributing tremendous wealth to our enemies and those same people who hate us.

Why? Where does our strength lie? What makes us tick?

The name of this week's Torah portion describes the Jew. It is called Masei - journeys. In it, the Torah summarizes all 42 journeys that the Jewish nation took while in the Desert for 40 years, awaiting their destined entry and settling into their promised homeland of Israel.

Journeys. Movement. Not being still. Climbing and falling. This was our story in the desert. This IS the story of our lives, inside the desert of our soul. The Jew is a person who must always evolve and change his surroundings. It may be positive changes, it may G-d forbid be negative changes. But the movement and energy propels us to change.

Wandering in the desert was a punishment from G-d no doubt. Yes, we were supposed to enter into Israel right after receiving the Torah. But the sin of the spies condemned us to wander. It was then that we became the wandering Jew. But it was also then that we became the surviving Jew. The ambitious Jew.

Looking back, the punishment was truly a blessing to us. It is what gave us the courage and strength to pick up and go, when hope seemed all but lost.

Establish another Torah class, help your neighbor today. Call someone to tell them you are always there for them. Come on, move!

Wishing you a wonderful Shabbat and an incredible week ahead.

Chanuka inspiration

Menorah and World

Just the other night, I had a marvelous encounter which I would like to share with y'all... Something which really inspired me.

I called two of our community members yesterday to wish them a happy Chanuka and make sure that they had Menoras and everything for the holiday. When one of them told me that he had a Menorah, but didn´t have the chance to light it because he wasn't sure how to do it, I immediately offered to come over and help him light his Menorah.

"Where do I go to light the Menorah with you?" I asked him over the phone.

"Just come down to the Marina at 6pm tonight and we'll light it together" he responded.

Fine. After the sun set, I headed down to the Marina to meet up with these two Jews and light the Menorah together.

There they were, sitting, making all the tumult and catching the attention of everyone who passed by (in a good way obviously). When they saw me, they invited me over and we got ready to light the Menorah right there outside, overlooking the Marina.

Since it was windy, we went to the side, placed our small Menoras on the steps of the Puerto Paraiso mall and huddled around them to grant protection from the wind.

Slowly and patiently, these two Jewish souls beautifully recited the blessings and ignited two small candles for each of their Menoras, after which, we sat around together and watched the flames dance around to their own Chanuka miracle.

So there we were, sitting on the steps of the mall smack in the center of town, with two security guards eyeing us cautiously and wondering what on earth we were doing. Passersby wandered by and glanced our way, catching the dancing flames and pausing for a curious moment, before hurrying on to their waiting dinner reservations. Yet we were almost able to touch the feeling of Jewish pride.

I realized last night that on Chanuka, we truly become a glowing, miraculous people, just like the candles that we light.

We may be far from home. Far in both a physical and spiritual sense. We may find ourselves in the chilly outdoor town squares of places even as far-flung as Cabo, but somewhere on some side steps of a mall there are flames that burn and cast light upon us and everyone around us.

For this year, let´s try to take the lesson from the Chanuka candle. In addition to merely setting fire to a wick and some wax formation, let us allow ourselves to become the candle, connecting to the flame of another Torah class, another Mitzvah commitment and another caring gesture to our neighbor. Our little bit of light can surely banish all the darkness that our world is so infamous for producing.

Computer crash = blessing

When G-d created our world, he downloaded a very important and powerful program into it. He called it nature.

So necessary was this program, that without it, our world would not be able to function and would crash due to overload.

You see, the data from our global system is very large and full of infinite G-dly energies. In order for each particular process to properly do its job, all the backup history and data from the infinite computer of G-d must be very tightly packed and concealed, allowing very little energy to flow to the foreground of creation's computer. Thus, it allows us to only see and identify with whatever it is we are using at that particular moment.

This is nature. It is the concealment of G-dliness in our world.

In addition to the universal concealment program, each and every individual component of creation also has his/her own particular concealment, or 'nature'.

... Every so often, we get a glimpse of the infinite energies from behind the layer of nature. It's what we call a miracle. It means that our system has gone haywire for a small period of time. Yet, as opposed to when our physical computer's go haywire and crash on us, these particular miracles tend to be good and beneficial to the recipient's life. It helps them to gain perspective and direction in their lives, otherwise dark and difficult to maneuver through.

Well, I must tell you that the other day, I witnessed a private miracle in someone's life. I don't even know if they noticed it. But I saw it and it touched me to my core. I watched the layers of nature and physicality flicker for a moment in this person's soul and it was an amazing sight. Even better than the greatest fireworks display.

Here's how it went:

Being in Los Cabos, we are privileged to be able to meet and host scores of Jewish visitors who come to this beautiful and enriching location of earth for some peace of mind and relaxation.

We always welcome them warmly to our city and usually, Sonia and I will invite them over for a dinner with us. It grants us the opportunity to get to know each visitor better and no doubt, it also enhances each guest's time spent in Los Cabos, giving them one less dinner to worry about while they are seeking calm from their bustling lives back home.


So two weeks ago, we met a mother and daughter who were from Mexico City and were vacationing here in Los Cabos. Naturally, we asked them to please join us for a dinner on Thursday evening.


They agreed.

Thursday night came, they showed up to our place and we began the meal.

During the talking, I came to know them a bit more. They were very involved in a Conservative Synagogue in Mexico City... In fact, they were among the founders.

They had a Rabbi for 32 years, who dedicatedly gave himself over to the growth of the Synagogue and loved every member dearly. In turn, all of his congregation loved him too. However sadly, about 7 years ago he passed on and the community mourned. Especially this mom and daughter, who were exceptionally close to him.

It was then time for the community to find a new Rabbi. They searched and searched, until they found someone suitable. He was from Argentina and agreed to come to Mexico City and take the position of Rabbi.

The community happily gave him the job.

However this fellow was very different from their previous Rabbi. Instead of being involved with the spiritual growth and state of the community members, he seemed to always be more interested in his own personal gain from his 'job'.

When the community put him up in an apartment down the street from the Shul, the same one that the previous Rabbi lived in, this new one complained that the apartment was too small for him, his wife and their one child. He wanted a bigger house.

So they found a house, but it was too far from the Shul to walk.

"Don't worry about that" the Rabbi assured the board. I want the house anyways.

So the community got this huge and beautiful house for the Rabbi and thus began his Rabbinical career.


Unfortunately, the community wasn't impressed with him and he only lasted several years.

This is where the story gets revealing.

I ask the daughter, who has related to me this entire episode of their lives "What did the Rabbi do to lose the congregation?"

"Many things" she replies. "Among them, on Shabbat he used to drive from his home to the Temple, which was far away and that really bothered many people from the community."

In my mind, I didn't quite understand what she was saying. On the one hand, they seemed very proud to be affiliated with the conservative community, which no doubt has most of their members comfortable with driving to Synagogue on Shabbat and men and women sitting together. Yet they are upset at the Rabbi for also driving?? Doesn't that sound a bit hypocritical?

But what she said next blew me away...

"You see Benny, for the rest of the community to drive on Shabbat... Nu! That's one thing. But we expect our Rabbi to be an example for us and when this Rabbi drives on Shabbat, it shows us that he doesn't care about Torah or Judaism. And that bothered us very much."

I was shocked, yet amazingly inspired by what she had just revealed to me... She had revealed to me the shine of infinity from behind the concealment of her nature program and how bright and inspiring it was!!

A level opened up, where the answer to my previous question didn't exist. There is no question of hypocrisy at this level.

A Jew may not be too involved with keeping the Torah and doing all the Mitzvot in the most stringent a manner. In fact, unfortunately as it is, some may even legitimize their lack of observance by giving their status a title and identity. However there is always the pintele yid, the Jewish spark within that glows and it is that moment of truth that allows the soul to shine on the outside, albeit for an instant.

"Me? I'm not too observant. But if my Rabbi is sinning?? If my entire symbol of the Torah as it is in an absolute form of truth and everlasting strength is failing... Then we have a real problem."

What an inspiring moment I had.

Now, let's somehow try and work on bringing that dampened glow to the forefront and bring Moshiach now!!!

The history of challenges!!

I have found that whenever I plan an event, a class or any project at all, throughout the preparations, problems and challenges are thrown at me from all directions. Sometimes the issues that arise are so big, that I will seriously consider laying down my optimism and enthusiasm and declaring defeat to the vicious complications that attacked me.

Indeed it is a well known rule that if you're doing something good, you're bound to have the most difficulties along the way. The bumpiest roads are the ones that are most rewarding in the end.

This is precisely what talks to me in this week's Torah portion of Vayishlach. After 20 years of living far away from home, Jacob is finally returning. Yet on the way, he gets word that his wild brother Esau - who was upset at him some 20 years earlier for stealing a blessing from pops - is quickly descending upon him and his family with a small army of 400 strong men of war.

Seems pretty intimidating no? And obviously Jacob did get worried. Yet interestingly, he did not choose to turn around and go back to safety. G-d had told him that it was time to return home and he was on the way to where he needed to be. He was doing the 'right' thing. So, he prayed, he sent presents to try and appease his brother and he prepared for a possible war. He was looking ahead at what needed to be done in order to overcome this challenge.

And then we find the amazing part of it all... Once Esau comes, there is no fighting, no bloodshed, only love and peace. Esau comes and hugs Jacob and they spend their time catching up on stuff together.

Where was the climax of this plot??!! Where was the grand battle between the timid Jacob and his raging brother Esau??!! This is certainly not an academy award winning ending!!

But G-d made the world in such a way that when one pursues the good, they find the road extremely difficult and challenging. Yet once they arrive at the destination, all the problems dissolve and everything works out fine in the end.

... And this is my story. Perhaps yours too... The road to goodness has many potholes along the way, yet once the goal is finally at the horizon, not only do the challenges melt away and disappear, but they also assist us in our journey.

May we all find the determination within ourselves, to continue blazing forward in our path ascribed to us by G-d through his Torah and bring forth a time of peace, tranquility and G-dliness for all the world.

On a developing global society

I've come to realize that the Liberal mind is very ahead of its time.
Let me explain...
Imagine if you will a father and two sons.
The older child is talented, good looking, cool and popular, while the younger son is ugly, shy and made fun of.
Both children have the right to enjoy life, so why is only one of them successful, while the other one seems destined to a life of failure and shame?
Well, there are several avenues that can be taken with regard to the two children and the father.
Avenue #1: The father can let each child be. He can sit on the side and allow his children to grow as they are.
What happens?
Older, cool brother has all the friends. He becomes Mr. popular, while his younger brother sits on the side sulking, suffering and growing more and more discontent with his unfair chunk of torment called life.
... This was what the world was like many years ago. The rich remained rich and prospered while the poor people were stuck being poor without anyone to care for them.
It was allowing the world to be as it is.
Avenue #2: The father educates his children to love each other. He explains to them how each one needs to look out for the other, how the younger brother also has a right to enjoy popularity and success. He spends time with his older son and gently encourages him to help out his other, less fortunate brother... Teach him how to be successful, make sure he has friends, involve him in your life and care for him.
What happens?
With such a loving education and enriched life, the cool brother chooses to lovingly tend to his younger brother. He brings him along for parties with friends. He plays games with him, perhaps shows him how to hold a baseball bat and hit a home run. He tells all his friends how cool the younger brother is and protects him from bullies.
This was what the world was like at the beginning of democracy and liberalism.
When free trade and democratic rule created tremendous wealth and success, there came with it an understanding of helping others who were suffering.
The people of this successful society independently chose to give of their own fortune to those who were still suffering and in need of their help.
The rise of the perfect world and our future seemed bright.
But there is still the Avenue #3: The father is clearly aware and of the opinion that the younger son should not need to suffer, just because he was was born less gifted than the older child. So he begins forcing the older boy to care for the younger son. He puts his older boy down at every opportunity, chastising him for not being more involved with his brother's life.
He takes away the cool son's games and gives part of it to the younger son. He forces the older son to bring this loser along to his parties. Screaming that the older boy MUST help his younger brother!
What happens?
The older brother may rebel, totally rejecting and ridiculing his younger sibling whenever their father is not looking. Inevitable jealousy will develop, from dad's loving attention always being directed towards the unsuccessful boy.
The older brother may stop going to parties altogether. He may begin to act less cool and become less popular with everyone, simply because he is tired of being pressured into a life that he doesn't necessarily agree with. In other words, being kind and charitable puts a very bad taste into the cool brother's conscience.
This is what our liberal world is slowly coming to.
When the less fortunate demand help from the successful!
When the rich people are 'forced' into helping others, it creates an implosion of the very success that is enjoyed.
When their wealth is forcefully removed from them and they are not accorded the proper respect and recognition of their hard work and effort to getting where they are, yet they are constantly characterized as greedy, only-lucky and evil millionaires who conspire to take over the world, then they develop a horrible attitude toward those who falsely accuse them as well as toward the poorer people who their money ends up helping.
And that is the problem with our society now.
Yes, the poor have a right to be helped.
Yes, all humans have equal rights.
Yes, rich people work hard to make their money and they show dedication to their careers more than the less fortunate people.
However, the rich cannot be forced to relinquish their fortune. It will only bring on destruction.
For a healthy society to grow, it needs to all begin with education.
People must be educated that we all have a right to equality and basic rights. However it must come from each and every individual's personal choice to help out his fellow. When the rich are granted respect and honor that they've worked so hard to deserve, along with the warm encouragement to help out the less fortunate, then they happily give.
The problem with liberalism nowadays is that they've idolized the poor and demoralized the rich.
And so it is... Liberals are forcing a Messianic age, when everyone will be helping everyone. But they are mistaken, because Messianic age is when people will choose to be good.
In addition, the liberals believe that everything is essentially good and can be changed and elevated in peaceful terms.
While in theory they are correct, in reality they are very, very wrong.
Our world was created with evils. Evils that are so bad, that they must be distanced and destroyed. This is both spiritually and physically as well.
Liberals will be against war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. They will say that peaceful discussions with rogue nations and corrupt socialists will cause these evil people to mend their ways and become better people. "Innocent lives will be lost!" they claim.
Republicans will be for the war in Iraq, Afghanistan and Iran. They will say that we cannot afford peaceful discussions with rogue nations and corrupt socialists. We must kill them all and destroy the evil from within our midst. "It will ultimately save lives!" they claim.
The question is, who decides what is evil or not?
We need Moshiach...
The following video is what got me so mad about this whole thing!!
I believe that the students here did the right thing. It was wonderful of them to make a voice for these young and innocent Arab victims, who were murdered in their youth and not given a chance of life... However, I think that they protested their point at the wrong function. A very wrong function!! They should stand up and shown their anger and frustration when Hamas supporters come and speak in their school! They should shout their cries of injustice to the terrorists who put these innocent children in such compromising circumstances!! It is not the fault of the Israeli's for killing young children. It is the fault of careless and destructive terrorists who deliberately put these children in harms way.
These students are very sad victims of the terrorists political tact. The terrorists exploit our education system and the kind-hearted nature of Westernized children and young adults today. They show the kind world images of children dead, women suffering and children crying in pools of blood.
The soft hearts of these Westernized cultures melt at the scene and their minds lose focus on good and evil.
It is indeed a bitter exile.

The Eighth Note

"It's perspective m'boy. Perspective"

I remember way, way back in the day, when I was a Yeshivah student, I used to help a certain Chabad House every so often and spend Shabbos with them. It was a marvelous experience every time. I loved the atmosphere, the warmth and the genuine feeling of welcome and acceptance that the Shliach and his family gave me.

But there was one thing that annoyed me to no end:

The members of this particular Chabad family were known to have beautiful voices and a real knack for pleasant singing. So naturally, every Shabbos that I came, I would excitedly look forward to sitting in shul and enjoying the beautiful melodious harmonies that the Rabbi and his kids would perform during the services. At the time, however, I would bemoan one flaw in the services - one particular congregant in their Shul. Let us call him Steve.

Tell help you understand this 'flaw' perhaps a parable of sorts will help: You know the way a chocolate chip doesn't taste all that bad, but if you put it in your egg sandwich, it kind of clashes... Well, this Chabad house had a similar problem.

This Steve has an exceptionally off-tune voice. In truth by saying exceptionally, I am being merciful in my description - His voice was waaayy of tone.

I don't have a problem with people who can't sing. I don't mind their personalities and I have many a friend who can't keep a tune.

But when I would visit this particular Chabad House, I would take issue with the off notes that would be bellowed from Steve, simply because had Steve not been there, the singing would have been absolutely stunning.

I would sit in Shul on Friday night and the Shliach/Rabbi/Chazzan/Gabai would begin the Friday night service... Lechu Nerannena . . .

Finally the highlight of the night - The Lecha Dodi song.

The Chazzan and his children would begin their charming rendition of the prayer with a joyous Chassidic melody accompanying the poetic words of ancient times, welcoming the Shabbos queen. All of a sudden from the back of the room, Steve is mysteriously and for reasons unknown to man, encouraged to join in and holler away with his baritone noises. The Rabbi and his family became immune to Steve’s cacophony and they would calmly continue singing. I, however took this noise much more seriously. I would sit in the back and fume. The beautiful singing was drowned out by Steve and I would never forgive him.

He always seemed to ruin my desired Shabbos enjoyment and never was I able to sit back and appreciate the singing of this family. What's more, is that Steve was one of the guys who always showed up. No matter the weather or season, he was their most devoted congregant. Maybe he loved singing with them.

I suffered lots from it.

Now, I am a Shliach of my own and just this past week I had an amazing experience that I would like to share.

... They say that when Moshiach comes, a new musical note, an eighth note will be introduced to the world. It's all part of the number eight, which will be quite popular when Moshiach comes.

While seven is a complete number (7 days to the week, 7 notes on the scale etc...), Moshiach's arrival will bring another dimension into play and we will go beyond the natural order of things, hence the number eight.

I've always wondered what this means. How can nature be broken and how does it make any sense, adding another note into music?

Well, now I'm a bit older and thank G-d I've been blessed to go on Shlichus too, with my own little Chabad house to run.

This past Friday night we didn't have a Minyan, but had several people who came to join us for services. We prayed. I began the prayers and everything flowed nicely.

When we got to the Lecha Dodi, I began singing it.

This week however, one of our regulars came to the proud decision that he finally knows the Lecha Dodi tune and would love to join in the harmonies. Obviously, he was a very clear reminder of Steve from my traumatizing past. I was hanging on for dear life, trying to concentrate on my own singing, as the guy in Shul was making me dizzy. He was making so much noise, and so loudly at that, that I was thinking of actually skipping Lecha Dodi on account of hazardous exposure or something.

And then, right in the middle of my agony, I thought of this Moshiach note. When our world is redeemed from our closed mindedness and we are opened to a dimension beyond our mental limitations of what's nice and ugly and good and bad, then we have reached the number eight. It is then that we are able to look at all the things that we always translated to be negative, and we see that they are tolerable and even (gasp) constructive and part of the beauty of life.

And so I embraced the annoying voice singing in the back. Perhaps I went off key myself. But I changed my perspective to a more positive one. Here was a simple man, who comes to Shul on a Friday night, because he known he's Jewish and he knows that this night is one where G-d wants him to be in Shul connecting with him. So he leaves his job and his world and shows up to Shul with nothing more than the will to connect. And connect he does!!

He joins in the praying and when it comes time to sing with everyone, he happily sings. Perhaps to the self-centered Rabbi standing up front, he may be off tune. But he is still joyfully expressing his soul to his Creator in the best way that he can. And finally I saw how beautiful it really was.

Harmony doesn't need to be defined by the musical giants of our world. Harmony needs to be defined by each and every individual person. When we can look beyond our boxed-in minds and see the music for what it really is, the expression of the soul, then we have opened our ears and hearts to the magical eighth note.

This past Friday night, I had the most beautiful Lecha Dodi of my life. I sang, some congregants happily hummed, other joined in the singing and our own little Steve roared.

Yet all together, we sounded absolutely beautiful.

And so, "it's all perspective m'boy. All perspective!"

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