Question asked of Rabbi Menachem Bluming this week:

Many times in the Torah it says that we should not say or do something that is forbidden since that will make G-d very angry. What am I supposed to make of that? How can I respect a G-d who is on the edge of blowing up if we don’t follow what He says?

Here’s a thought:

Imagine being married to a man who never gets angry. Ever. About anything. You insult him and he shrugs. You are rude to him and he is nice back to you. You give attention to others and he isn’t the least bit jealous.

Would that be a wonderful marriage?

Well, on one level, yes, it would be fantastic. No tension, no issues, no arguments or fights or silent treatment.

But in truth, it wouldn’t be good at all. It wouldn’t be a relationship. If he never gets upset at you, it means that you don’t really matter to him. If nothing you do moves him, it means he doesn’t care enough to be impacted by you.

Being in a relationship means affecting each other. For better or for worse, your heart is intertwined with someone else’s. If you aren’t getting a reaction, then you aren’t connecting. You may be married, but you are really alone.

G-d created the world so He could have a relationship with us. He made a huge gamble, creating humans with free choice to do whatever we want, and He invested Himself in us, allowing Himself to be impacted by our actions.

So when the Torah says that G-d will get angry if we do wrong, that is the most beautiful statement of love. G-d is saying, “You matter to me. Your actions touch me. I have invested myself in you. This relationship is real.”

We only get upset at people who matter to us. You matter to G-d too.

Menachem Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Is The Constitution Like The Torah?

The Constitution provides for its own amendment by a supermajority of the Legislature and States, whereas the Torah is eternal and immutable.

It seems to me that many Jews in the U.S. conflate these two documents. They have developed a ‘veneration’ of the transcendence of the humanly conceived Constitution and concomitantly advanced the idea that the Torah is adaptable, whereas the reverse is true. Irrespective of the debate about whether the Constitution is a ‘living document’ or to be understood from the perspective of ‘original intent’, the fact is that the Constitution is a utilitarian document which also itself legitimates change by amendment.

The Torah on the other hand was given to us by an omniscient G-d – as familiar with the future as we are of the past or present – who stipulated numerous times that the Torah is applicable for all future time.

Logic too supports this notion.

Governmental systems and structures must necessarily adapt to societal change. Values and morals however, are truths which transcend the vicissitudes of any particular age or milieu and must therefore not change.

Menachem Mendel Bluming, RSK and Chabad.org

Dying with Dignity

It often happens that foreign, secular ideas creep into the minds of even those who have faith. Usually, the way these concepts infiltrate is via catch phrases and clichés. First they enter our vocabulary, then they become a part of our mentality.

One example is “dying with dignity.”

That phrase is poison. It originates in the movement promoting euthanasia. This is a phrase that deserves to die.

True dignity comes from the soul, from living a life of goodness and holiness and meaning. Our body is a vehicle for that mission to be achieved. But the body is not our real self, and not our source of dignity.

At the end of a good and purposeful life, the body may be frail and weak, but the soul is as bright as ever, having accomplished its mission. If people have to do some unpleasant jobs to bring comfort to that body in its final years, it should be seen as an honor. There is no greater dignity than to serve another.

I am not belittling the pain of seeing a loved one suffer. And I am not saying that the body’s deterioration is easy to face. I am saying that a person’s dignity comes from their soul and their moral achievements. That is living with dignity.

We end our life in the same way we started it, dependent on the love of others. That is a most dignified departure from this world to the next.

Rabbi Moss and Menachem Bluming

Why Isn’t Shavuot Well Known?

Here’s a guess. The reason why Shavuos is the least celebrated Jewish festival is a startling one. It is the least demanding… The easier the festival, the less it is observed.

The most difficult festival to observe is Yom Kippur, on which we abstain from food and drink altogether and pray all day. And yet, this rather grueling holiday is the most widely observed. The easiest festival to observe is Shavuos. All that is expected of us is to have a day of rest and eat lots of cheesecake and receive a great gift from above (the Torah). How hard can that be? And this pleasurable festival is the most neglected.

There’s a surprising lesson there. We value things that require effort. If something comes too easy, it is taken lightly. But if it’s demanding, it is more compelling. A tough diet will be taken seriously. A difficult work project will be given more attention. We invest ourselves where we feel what we are doing actually matters. When we are given serious responsibilities we step up to the role.

You would expect the opposite to be true. Indeed, there have been well meaning voices in Jewish history that have suggested that the best way to stem the tide of assimilation is by easing the laws of Judaism to make it more appealing. It makes sense. Lower the bar, lighten the burden, and people will be more willing to stay Jewish. But the result was the opposite. The Jewish movements that demanded less from their constituents have more often than not been a gateway out of Judaism rather than a way in. Quite simply, if Judaism asks nothing of me, then that’s what Judaism will get.

We don’t need to dilute Judaism to make it attractive. We just need to make it accessible. Jewish souls are thirsting for a Judaism that will ask something of them, demand their allegiance to a higher cause, stretch their minds to think deeper, challenge them to live with a sense of purpose and mission.

Menachem M Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Archaeological Proof for the Bible

Did you hear about the recent study on frogs? Scientists took a sample of over one hundred frogs of various species and did the following test:

They placed each frog on a table, crept up behind it and shouted, “Jump!” The frog jumped.

Then they cut off one leg, and again shouted jump. It jumped, although not as far.

They then cut off a second leg and told it to jump, and then a third, each time observing that the frog responded, but jumped smaller distances.

Finally they cut off the fourth leg and again shouted “Jump!” They were amazed to find that in every case the result was the same. The frog did not move at all.

The conclusion: When you cut off a frog’s legs, it goes deaf. It is scientifically proven.

We all come to the conclusions that we want to believe.

Many have tried to either prove or disprove the Torah’s divinity. Neither attempt will be successful. G-d wants us to have free choice. If we listen to His word, it is not by force. To maintain balance, there will always be valid arguments to discredit Him and His Torah. We can choose to buy those arguments, or see beyond them. Then, when we open ourselves to the Torah’s message, the choice to do so is coming from within.

G-d has given you a mission. How you respond is totally up to you. You can be as deaf as a legless frog, or you can take a leap in response to your higher calling.

Menachem M Bluming, Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Do We Have Miracles Today?

People often tell me that if they saw a real miracle like the splitting of the sea they’d believe but how can they be expected to when there are no miracles today.

This June we commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the six day war (1967 – 2017). Do you vividly recall those fateful days? The fear and panic in the lead-up to the war and the subsequent jubilant euphoria of the miraculous swift victory.

Nobel Laureate Eli Wiesel wrote these words in an article published in the ‘Forverts’ (translated from the original Yiddish by Chana Pollack) in the after-math of the war:

“Future generations will probably never believe it. Teachers will have a hard time convincing their students that what sounds legendary actually occurred. The children will, naturally, swallow each word, but later on, as adults, they’ll nod their heads and smile, remarking that these were fantasies of history.”

There are great miracles in our days if we would only notice…

Menachem M. Bluming and Chabad.org

Passover Seder Modern Relevance

In every English version of the Haggadah that I have seen, there is one word that is always translated incorrectly.

When listing the Ten Plagues that smote the Egyptians, second one in Hebrew is called Tzefardeya. This is always translated as Frogs. But the original Hebrew is in the singular. The translation should be Frog.

Now indeed, it is a little awkward to translate it literally. One frog hopping around does not seem like much of a plague. And to be fair, in many languages the singular form can denote a group, so perhaps Frog can mean Frogs. But there must be a reason why the Haggadah calls this plague the plague of a frog. Lice is in plural, so why is frog singular?

The talmudic tradition answers that actually, the plague of frogs started with one single frog. A large frog emerged from the Nile River. The Egyptians saw it, and knowing that Moses had warned them there would be a plague of frogs, attacked the giant frog with sticks. As they struck the frog, it started spewing hundreds and thousands of little frogs, which quickly spread over the entire land. The more they hit, the more frogs appeared.

So indeed the plague started with a frog singular. It was the Egyptian reaction that caused frogs plural.

Those foolish Egyptians were attacking the frog, but ignoring its root cause. The plagues were only coming because the Egyptians refused to let the Israelites go free. But rather than taking a hard look at themselves and changing their cruel behavior, the Egyptians looked at this big frog and tried to kill it. Which only led to more frogs.

There is a deep message behind this rather odd episode. Because so often we do the same silly thing as those Egyptians did.

We lose patience with our kids who are misbehaving, while the main reason for their playing up is because we don’t have patience to really listen to them in the first place.

We exacerbate issues unnecessarily by replying to all… in ALL CAPS

You get my drift… We hit these frogs, and all we get is more frogs.

Rabbi Menachem M Bluming Chabad.org and Rabbi Moss

What Makes the Seder Night Different

The key to the powerful treasure of the Seder is shared in the Four Questions

On all other nights we don’t dip in but tonight we do, twice…

Some of us go through life without ever being present, without dipping in. We may be sitting in one place, but our mind is elsewhere. We are constantly focusing on what needs to happen next, or where we would rather be, and never experiencing the moment for what it is.

Hold on I’ve got to grab this call and get to this text, I’ll be right with you…

We can miss out on the magic of today, simply because we are distracted. Tonight will be different. Tonight we will immerse ourselves in the moment, and be totally transfixed by the Seder and its message. We will dip ourselves entirely in the words of the Haggadah.

Not once but twice – in time and in mind we will be fully present at the Seder to find freedom by remembering who we are and where we are going and what this life is all about…

Menachem M Bluming and Chabad.org

Do Your Children Respect You?

It is so natural and joyous to care for our children and yet what a challenge to show that love, patience and care to our parents.

Why is it so? It’s easy to write it off to the ills of our society values and of course there is truth to that but here’s a different angle.

We are all descendants of Adam and Eve, the first human beings. We have inherited from them the basic ingredients of human nature.

One thing made Adam and Eve very different to the rest of us. They didn’t have parents. They were created as adults by G-d, not born as babies to parents. They had no umbilical cords.

We on the other hand do have parents. And we inherit their genes, all the way back to Adam and Eve. That’s why the desire to look after our children is human nature, but looking after our parents are skills that don’t come naturally. Adam and Eve knew how to parent, but they never knew how to treat a parent. This is a skill that we need to learn.

If children are taught to just follow their heart and trust their instincts, then they will do just that. Their instincts tell them to care for themselves and their young, but not their parents.

On the other hand, if we teach our children that they are moral beings, who can use their free choice to go beyond their genetic programming, they can do what is right rather than what feels right, and what is good rather than what feels good. This means honoring the people who gave them their existence; who sacrificed for who they are today.

By Menachem Bluming and Rabbi Moss and Chabad.org

Healthcare Debate in America

The healthcare debate rages on in the country. The costs are so great and they are beyond what many families can afford and yet costs keep on rising and the price tag to society is skyrocketing. How can we leave families without healthcare coverage? How can healthcare coverage be provided in a fiscally responsible manner? What to do?

So here is a word to the wise from the Bible, the Torah (Exodus 15:26) “…if you will diligently heed the voice of G-d, your G-d, and do what is upright in His eyes and carefully listen to all His commandments and statutes, then all of the illness that I (G-d) brought upon Egypt, I will not bring upon you for I am G-d your healer.”

The two parts of the verse seem to be contradictory. If G-d promises not to bring any illness upon the people why then is G-d referred to as ‘your healer’ since a healer is only necessary after one already has an illness? The answer is that G-d is teaching us two important lessons about health and healing: a) the role of a healer is not primarily to heal after the onset of an illness but rather to prevent illness in the first place by promoting healthy living and b) that physical and spiritual health are two sides of the same coin, each as necessary as the other.
This notion highlights a critical calling to the American medical system. There can be no doubt that modern medical advances are astounding and unequaled to any other time and place in the world. Yet, the system still primarily centers around healing illness and not on the prevention of illness in the first place by promoting healthy living. The ideal solution of course would be to create a partnership between doctors, schools and clergy to promote both healthy and holy living.

Creating a health care system where the incentives for both the individual and the doctor encourage proper healthy physical and spiritual living is really the only way to have an affordable and sustainable health care system for all.

Menachem M Bluming