Why Jews are Drawn to Synagogues on the High Holidays

Have you ever wondered why you are drawn to a synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?! Why are so many Jews who do not ordinarily attend synagogues feel the need to be there on the High Holidays? There must be a deep reason beyond tradition, guilt and the honey cake kiddush… listen in:

A king had a dream one night… He was in the woods just roaming around alone, enjoying the pleasant nature, the chirping birds and the comfortable breeze, when from afar he heard a young child playing a beautiful melody on his flute. Not wanting to disturb the beautiful music, the king sat down on a stump and allowed the mesmerizing music to saturate his soul. It was so sweet and engaging, soulful and uplifting, it made him feel so wholesome and fulfilled. The king could not pull himself away from listening to this beautiful music. Er! Er! Er! Er!… Suddenly the disturbing noise of his alarm clock woke him from this sweet dream, he desperately tried to recall the melody but alas he could not remember it. The day gave him no rest. He had to find that sweet melody once again…

He sent out word in the kingdom that any young child who would come to play a beautiful tune on their flute would be rewarded handsomely. He could not identify the melody and so he hoped that from all the contestants that precious music would emerge.

This story is your story…

Your soul is royalty and it longs for the sweet melody that invigorates its essence. We can’t put our finger on where to find that music that makes us feel whole and meaningful and so we search everywhere earnestly seeking those notes that we so deeply pine for. Look at the leadership of any movement, any revolution (even Communism!), and you will find Jews at the forefront, we eternally search for the melody that gives our spirit meaning.

Kaballah teaches that on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur G-d plays that melody and it stirs our soul and draws us close…

When you find yourself in a synagogue this Rosh Hashanah make sure to spend the time absorbing this precious melody, allow it to seep through and refresh our tired spirits that so deeply yearn for a meaningful connection to the essence of who we are. That melody sings to you that you are an irreplaceable expression of the Divine in this world; that from your soul emanates wisdom and goodness without which this universe is fundamentally lacking; that G-d loves you AND needs you; that you cannot allow time to pass because you are called upon for a mission to make this world and your life a G-dly abode!
Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming has served the Potomac, Maryland community as the rabbi and director of Chabad Shul of Potomac since 2003

Rosh Hashanah Apples in Honey

So here’s a twist on an old story that has been circulating for years:

A young girl held two apples which she planned to dip into honey on Rosh Hashanah, as we do traditionally.

Her mum came in and softly asked her little daughter with a smile; my sweetie, could you give your mum one of your two apples?

The girl looked up at her mum for some seconds, then she suddenly took a quick bite out of one apple, and then quickly of the other.

The mum felt the smile on her face freeze. She tried hard not to reveal her disappointment.

Then the little girl handed one of her bitten apples to her mum, and said: mummy, here you are. This is the sweeter one! This one is for you!

No matter who you are, how experienced you are, and how knowledgeable you think you are, always delay judgement.

As the Mishnah (Avos Mishna 1:6) teaches: always judge another favorably.

On Rosh Hashanah we ask that of G-d and He expects us to exemplify that with each other.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming who has served the Chabad Potomac Maryland community since 2000, leads Rosh Hashanah services each year which are available to all. Menachem Mendel Bluming and the Chabad Shul of Potomac wishes you and yours a Shanah tovah!

The Jewish custom to wash hands after a funeral and to not dry them

Death is one of those topics we usually prefer to avoid. It is not pleasant to be reminded of our mortality and of those whom we have lost. And yet, it is a part of life that we cannot avoid. A healthy attitude towards death can in fact be life-enhancing. The washing and non-drying of the hands helps to illustrate this.

There are several reasons given for washing and not drying the hands after a funeral or visiting a cemetery.

1. A corpse is ritually impure, and anyone who’s been close to a dead body contracts some of that impurity. Washing the hands cleanses us of this touch with death, and we don’t want to pass this unholy spirit onto a towel, so we leave our hands to dry themselves.

2. We want to arouse kindness and mercy on the departed when they are judged in heaven. Water represents kindness, as it falls from the heavens to irrigate the earth. So pouring water on our hands symbolizes the kindness that we pray should rain down on the departed in heaven. We want this kindness to be everlasting, so we don’t dry the hands.

3. Washing is a reminder for the living that now is the time to purify ourselves and ensure we have clean hands and a pure heart. We remember our own mortality and cleanse ourselves while we still have the chance. By not drying the hands, we take the message of own mortality with us.

We wash our hands after contact with the dead to express our desire to stay away from death and to embrace life. We don’t dry the hands to state that death, and its urgent message, are always with us. We can’t avoid death. So let it remind us to celebrate life.

Source: Maavar Yabok, Sifsei Renonos 19, by 17th century Kabbalist Rabbi Aharon Berechia of Modena, Italy. There he adds another reason: we are washing our hands of any negligence in the passing of our loved ones. We did all we can. We need to cleanse ourselves of survivor’s guilt. Rabbi Moss

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming of the Chabad Shul of Potomac, Maryland has purchased a section of the Garden of Remembrance Gan Zikaron Jewish cemetery http://www.gardenofremembrance.org/chabad-shul-of-potomac/ which he hopes will remain with plenty of empty space for a long time to come

Power of a Jewish Name

Mazel tov! As part of Rabbi Mendel Bluming’s position in Potomac, Maryland he officiates at life cycle events including Brisses and naming babies and encourages all Jewish parents to give their children a traditional Jewish name.
In Jewish tradition giving your child a Jewish name is not just an arbitrary choice. The letters that are in the centre of the word for soul, neshamah, are shem which means name. The name actually holds code for the spiritual life force of this child’s soul energy.
It is for this reason that a Jewish name is considered divinely ordained and its choosing should not be overly influenced by others because parents specifically are given the ability to identify the code for their child’s soul.

Why the Hand Washing Before Bread?

Rabbi Mendel Bluming guides the Chabad Shul of Potomac, Maryland and Chabad’s motto is to bring understanding and connection to the service of G-d.

So here’s a thought about washing before bread.

We are told that in the times of the Temple, the Kohen tribe of priests would live off of donations of produce from all the farmers, called the Terumah. This food could only be eaten by a Kohen and his family, and had to be eaten in a state of ritual purity. So the priests would always wash their hands ritually before eating to ensure that they were pure. It then became customary for even non-priests to wash their hands before eating, in deference to the Kohanim who were obligated to do so. And even though today we no longer have those foods that need to be eaten in purity, we continue to wash our hands before bread.

Why did our sages say that we should wash our hands the same way the priests did? The Kohanim did not work in the fields. They worked in the Temple, and relied on the tithes people donated to them for their upkeep. A priest couldn’t fool himself and think that he had worked for his bread. It was clear that he was being fed by the kindness of others.

We should all feel that way. It is not our own work and effort alone. It is all a gift from G-d.

Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss

Being Happy is Not a Reaction, It’s an Action

Rabbi Mendel Bluming, the rabbi in Maryland, is regularly turned to with the quest of how to find happiness in life.

In fact it is a central Jewish theme because the verse in Psalms 100 teaches that one MUST serve G-d (do their mission in this world) with joy! But how can that be expected when life is often full of pain, loss and setbacks?!

And that’s why it’s handed to us in the form of a mitzvah. Happiness isn’t a reaction to a blissful life but rather an action, a firm ideology to living joyfully regardless of life’s circumstances.

How? Here’s a thought: One can see happiness as being a product of our circumstances, or one can see happiness as the driver of our circumstances.

Joy has the power to tear down barriers. A happy and positive outlook can be the cause of happy and positive results. Not that happy people never have suffering. But happy people aren’t happy to let suffering define them. And that gives them the strength to see through tough period and come out the other end.

We can’t possibly control everything that happens to us or to others. There may be worthy reasons to be sad, and sadness is an understandable and sometimes appropriate reaction. But happiness is not a reaction but an action. We are always able to find reasons to be sad. Or we can focus on living happily.

This is not to mean being blind to the suffering and pain in the world. The Zohar explains that we can feel pain on one side of the heart while feeling joy on the other. I can cry and laugh at the same time. I can be feeling pain, my own or another’s, and at the same time be full of hope and joy.

No, it’s not easy, it’s a lifetime calling.

Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss

Rabbi Mendel Bluming explores; Standing Alone

The Torah famously tells us (Breishis 32) that Jacob remained alone. Abraham was named Ivri because he was on the “other side” of all of mankind, he stood alone. Elijah famously proclaimed, “I am the only one left, alone.” (Melachim Aleph 18). The Lubavitcher Rebbe was very content to stand alone. He was chastised for his campaign to put tefillin on for men on the streets, for persuading women to light Shabbat candles even if they did not keep Shabbat yet, for his stand towards Israel and on halachic conversion and of course on his Moshiach fervor and so much else. He was willing to stand alone and he formed a Jewish renaissance as a result.

G-d stands alone. The mystics expound that “One who is alone” is the level of the Divine Infinite Light which does not manifest in relationships. As in adon olam “Livado yimloch”. Isaiah 2: G-d will be exalted alone.

Do you have the courage to face standing alone rather than give in for acceptance in the pack? It is not easy, however, it is a high calling.

Chabad rabbi in Potomac Maryland ,Rabbi Mendel Bluming, has served the community since 2000 with his family.

Mendel Bluming on Spiritual Healing for Jews

Spirituality and healing are deeply intertwined. Modern medicine recognizes the power of the mind to help heal the body, and the impact of a patient’s spiritual state on the healing process. Any attempt to improve our physical health should be coupled with an upgrade in our spiritual health. On many levels, the body and soul are in parallel.

A medical treatment will only be effective if it is compatible with the patient. Factors such as blood type, genetic make-up and family history will determine whether a particular treatment is appropriate for a particular person. A practitioner would be derelict in their duty if they did not first investigate the patient’s background before deciding how to treat them.

The same applies to spiritual remedies. Your soul’s family history must be taken into account before embarking on any spiritual path. If your soul make up is Jewish, it needs Jewish spirituality to be healthy.

Healing practices can be borrowed from any culture. Stretches and exercises, breathing and relaxation techniques, herbal remedies and natural medicines, if they have been tried and tested and pose no danger, may be helpful, no matter where in the world they come from. These practices don’t need to come from a Jewish source in order to heal a Jewish body.

But once a remedy crosses over into the realm of the soul, your family history must be taken into account before we can determine if it is appropriate for you.

A healthy organism is one connected to its roots. Study Torah and plug in to your soul’s source. You need it for your health. Your doctor doesn’t have to be Jewish. Your spirituality does.
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming, Rabbi Moss based on Igros Kodesh Volume 10 p38

Mendel Bluming, a Chabad rabbi in Maryland, serves the central Jewish mission of bringing about the time of the Moshiach.

In the words of Isaiah engraved in the wall of the United Nations: “…they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks- Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Isaiah 2-4)

But it is a little hard to imagine that in today’s world… how will it come about?

The Messianic era, which we have been waiting for ever since the Temple was destroyed 2000 years ago, will usher in an unprecedented reign of peace. All nations will unite under one G-d with a singular moral purpose. There will be no more war, no famine, and no slow internet. While religious and national identities will remain, the hatred between them will be gone.

No blood need be shed to achieve this. The force of ideas, not the force of weapons, will bring about the redemption. This means some ideologies will need to be adjusted and certain beliefs rejected. But this can be done through introspection from within rather than attacks from without. When truth shines, falsehood falls away.

Sounds impossible? Look at history. Cultures do change. Even religions can reform. Within living memory Germany was a murderous terrorist state, and Japan was a mortal enemy of the west. Those two nations are nothing like that today. Okay, it took losing a World War to get there. But go back a bit further in history. Christianity once condoned the slaughter of non-believers, and that changed without a war. Had you lived in pre-war Germany or medieval Christendom you would have never believed that such change is possible. But it happened.

The Jewish people have always known that the impossible just takes a bit longer. After 2000 years, the time is ripe. We are living in an age of surprises. So don’t be surprised if Moshiach comes and renovates the landscape. Those who were previously classified as enemies will become allies. They will willingly and joyously unite. May it be soon.

Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss

Rabbi Mendel Bluming has often been asked by congregants in Potomac, about the 9 days practices, a period of time during which we mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple.

As tradition dictates, freshly laundered clothing is not worn during this period (other than Shabbat), however that is only if they are put on for comfort or pleasure. Those who are accustomed to changing their shirts regularly because of dirt or sweat in the heat of summer, may do so even during the 9 days, even if the shirt is freshly cleaned from beforehand.

Menachem Mendel Bluming quoted from Rabbi Goldstein at ShulchanAruchHarav.com who sources this in Kinyan Torah 1:109; Piskeiy Teshuvos 551:17