Got Happiness?

It is a law in the Code of Jewish Law to be joyous during this month, Adar! How can I be commanded to be happy if I am not?!

It takes skill to not notice the many blessings in our lives and in our generation. Yes we have valid complaints but they dare not cloud out our happiness and basic gratitude for the great times that we live in.

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming serves as a rabbi in Potomac, Maryland with his family

Comforting Mourners

What should you say to comfort a mourner?

The first law in the code of Jewish law is to just be silent when visiting… and only speak if they invite you to.

Your silence speaks volumes. It shares that you are present and that you are here for them and that you are not crowding them with your agendas or thoughts rather clearing yourself to receive whatever they are up to sharing, if they choose to.

That is true comfort.

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac, Maryland

Menachem Bluming Muses: What is accomplished by the constant stumbling in life?

Gifted souls enter this world and shine. All that surround them bathe in their light and their beauty. And when they are gone, their light is missed.

Challenged souls enter, stumble and fall. They pick themselves up and fall again. Eventually, they climb to a higher tier, where more stumbling blocks await them. Their accomplishments often go unnoticed—although their stumbling is obvious to all.

But by the time they leave, new paths have been forged, obstacles levelled, and life itself has gained a new clarity for all those yet to enter.

Both are pure souls, of the essence of the divine. But while the gifted shine their light from Above, the challenged meet the enemy on its own ground. Any real change in this world is only on their account.

Menachem Mendel Bluming, RTF and Chabad.org

Do You Get Annoyed a Lot?

There is a penetrating teaching by the master of souls, the Baal Shem Tov. He says that when you look at another person, you are really looking in the mirror. The things that annoy you most in others are the things that annoy you most about yourself. The reason you notice them in your fellow is because they are inside you, they are familiar, and they bother you, because they are yours.

If you didn’t suffer from the same issue you simply wouldn’t be able to recognize it in another person. You have to identify with something to be effected by it. If it pushes your buttons, it’s because they are your buttons.
So if you think everyone around you is so self-absorbed, if all you can see in others is selfishness…
You can change what you see around yourself. But you have to change yourself.

By Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Chabad Potomac, Maryland since 2000 and Rabbi Moss

Facing Your Fears

The Egyptians, who had cruelly tortured the Jewish People for hundreds of years, are now facing their fate when the sea split to swallow them up.
Moses declares to the Jewish People: Because you see Egyptian taskmasters now, you will never see them again. (Shemot 14:13)
What is the connection, because you see them now you will never see them again, seems like a non sequitur?! asks the Baal Shem Tov founder of the Chassidic movement.
He explains as follows:
It is only because you are facing the Egyptian taskmasters that you will never see them again. Because what you resist will persist! When you face your fears and enemies’ threats, rather than hide from them and retreat in dread, you will succeed in vanquishing their emotional control over you.
Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac, Maryland, shares Torah insight on subjects from life insurance to meaningful life

Are You Afraid?

Moses is afraid to go to Pharaoh, the most powerful man of the time.

G-d tells him “Bo el Pharaoh!” (Exodus 10:1) literally come to Pharaoh.

Why come and not GO?

Bo is spelled with two Hebrew letters: Bet and Aleph. Bet represents Bitachon trust in G-d and Aleph represents Emunah, belief in G-d.

With trust and belief in a Higher Power one is ready to stand before any Pharaoh unintimidated and undeterred.

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming leads the Chabad Shul in Potomac, Maryland since 2003.

Do Your Children Respect You?

We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, the first human beings. We have inherited from them the basic ingredients of human nature. They didn’t have parents. They were created, not born. They had no umbilical cords. They probably didn’t even have belly buttons. So any normal human being has an innate desire to look after their children. But looking after our parents is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally.

The genes we pass on to our children are not enough. We must pass on to them a moral code too. If they are raised to think of themselves as mere intelligent evolved animals, then they will follow their instincts, which program them to care for themselves and their young, not their parents.
But if we teach our children that they are moral beings that can go beyond their genetic programming, then we raise them to know that life is about doing what is right rather than what feels right, what is good rather than what feels good. We are not just apes with intelligence, but ethical beings with a calling.

Mendel Bluming has served as Chabad rabbi in Potomac, Maryland since 2000. Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming and his wife have put a great focus on connecting community youth with our timeless Jewish values.

Would You Give Up Your Atheism for Cash?

What happens when people need to choose between money and principles? Let’s try the following theoretical experiment.

Imagine you put Richard Dawkins, an outspoken atheist, in a sealed room all alone, with no one watching, no recording devices or CCTV’s, and you offer him a deal: “I will give you ten million dollars if you will make the following statement right here and now: ‘G-d most certainly does exist, He created the universe, and atheism is a delusion.’ I will never tell anyone that you said it. There will be no record of this one off event. Just make the statement, get the cash, and it will all be forgotten.”

Does anyone have any doubt that Richard Dawkins would go for it and take the money? Can you think of any reason in the world for him to refuse that offer? Would he even hesitate to accept it? I think clearly not.

Now imagine you put the rabbi he debated in that same sealed room, all alone, and made this offer: “Rabbi, you will receive ten million dollars cash, no strings attached, but on one condition – you eat this piece of bacon. No one will ever find out, it will not go beyond this room, it will be forgotten forever. Just eat and take the prize.”

What would the rabbi do? Would he too sell his principles for ten million dollars? After all, it’s just once, and no one will ever know.

Let’s be honest. Rabbis are humans too, and some rabbis may find the temptation too hard to resist. But I would say that the overwhelming majority of rabbis would refuse this offer and walk away. And not just rabbis, but many observant Jews, including those who could desperately use the money, would be able to withstand the test and not eat the bacon.

I am not suggesting that religious people do no wrong. I am saying that a religious person has reason to stand for their principles even when they can get away with it, and reason to regret it when they fail. It makes no difference that no one will find out or no one is looking. G-d is always looking. An atheist doesn’t have that restriction. I doubt that even one single atheist in their right mind would refuse to abrogate their atheism when there is something to gain and no one will find out.
Money is indeed a powerful corrupter. But in a choice between money and G-d, at least G-d has a chance. Between money and atheism, there is no contest 🙂

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming is a community leader in Potomac, Maryland. Credits for this article also to Rabbi Moss

Help Me Stop The Rain Prediction from Our Outdoor Wedding!

The Talmudic sage Rabbi Yochanan taught:

There are three keys that G-d holds, and never hands over to anyone else. They are the key to rain, the key to childbirth, and the key to revival of the dead.

No matter how advanced our society becomes, no matter how much progress we make in technology and science, and no matter how many superstitious magic tricks we perform, some things are simply out of human control.

The mystery of creating new life still baffles us. The greatest doctors cannot explain why some people conceive a child with ease, while others have so much difficulty. We are privileged to live in a time with so many options for assisted fertility. But in the end only G-d can decide when a baby is to be born. The key to life is in His hands.

As with the beginning of life, so with its end. Despite all the medical advancements and extended life expectancy, we still can’t bring someone back from the dead. We believe the time will come when G-d will revive the dead and our departed loved ones will live again. In the meantime, death is the final frontier that man cannot conquer.

Then, in between birth and death, there’s the weather. We can’t control the rain. You can plan an outdoor function months in advance, only to see your plans upturned by a sudden downpour. A huge sporting event with tens of thousands of spectators can be rained out and called off within minutes. And when there’s a drought we pray for rain, but we can’t force it to come.

All the scientific research can’t explain the mysteries of childbirth. And all the medical know-how can’t bring the dead back to life. And all the brooms in every tree can’t stop it raining. We need to humbly look up to the heavens, and acknowledge that those keys are not in our hands.

This acknowledgement is the antidote to what’s known in Greek as hubris, or in Latin as chutzpah 🙂 Humans can be arrogant sometimes, thinking we are in control and have the power to do whatever we want. But we didn’t choose when to be born. We can’t come back when we die. And we can’t do anything if it rains on our party. We need to trust that G-d does His job, and we should get on with ours.

Note: Jewish law encourages seeking fertility treatments under rabbinical guidance
Sources Taanis 2a, Devarim Rabbah 7:6 and by Rabbi Moss and Rabbi Mendel Bluming. Mendel Bluming has served the Potomac area community since 2003 through the Chabad Shul of Potomac

Chanukah Message- Life’s a Dreidel

Take a dreidel and spin it. It’s fascinating. You never know which side it will land on. It could fall on the Gimmel, which means you win, or the Shin, which means you lose.

It seems totally random. You just spin and something happens. But really it isn’t. Every spin has an exact amount of kinetic energy to cause a measured number of turns. The table surface provides an exact amount of friction, and the air pushes the dreidel in a certain way, so it falls exactly as it is supposed to. Nothing is left to chance.

Life is like that. It may seem random sometimes. Things just happen, you win or you lose, it falls this way or that for no apparent reason. But that is not really so. There is a divine hand spinning the world. Every turn is deliberate, every experience you have is supposed to happen, and whether you win or lose, there is a reason behind it.

There are no self-spinning dreidels. There is always a hand behind the spin. And you are exactly where you are meant to be.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming serves the community in Potomac Maryland since 2000. Menachem Mendel Bluming and his family represent Chabad which teaches us to see the Hand behind every detail in life. Credits for this article to Rabbi Moss as well.