Menachem Bluming Muses: Do Jews Believe in Reincarnation?

A teenage boy once asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “Do we believe in reincarnation?”

The Rebbe’s answer was short and cryptic:
“Yes, we do believe in reincarnation. But don’t wait until then.”

A puzzling response. Wait until when? The boy asked a simple enough question, which could be answered with a yes or no. What did the Rebbe mean by “don’t wait until then”?

Here’s a thought:

Reincarnation to many means a second chance at life. An opportunity to complete unfinished business. “Will we have that chance?” asked that young man. “Yes we do but that is not an excuse for procrastination. Start the next chapter, the next life, of your lifetime today!”
Live this lifetime as if it’s your last. You may have past lives, and you may have future lives, but don’t wait until then. Do it now.

Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac Maryland and Rabbi Moss

Menachem Bluming Muses: Help! I Sat at the Table Corner, will I ever Get Married?!

In many families, it is strictly forbidden for any unmarried person to sit at the corner of the table. Many were told from a young age that if you do sit at a corner, you will never get married. Have you ever heard of this? Is this a Jewish belief?

This belief is widely held, and has been handed down for generations in a range of cultures. If your grandmother is Polish, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian or Ukrainian then there is a good chance she grew up with this superstition. The fact that many Jewish families originate from those countries may explain why so many share this belief. But it doesn’t come from a Jewish source.

Judaism forbids the adoption of beliefs and practices that are not sourced in our own tradition, unless they have a logical reason behind them. So if a black cat passes in front of you, we don’t believe that means you will have bad luck. But walking under a ladder may bring bad luck, if someone falls on you.

So avoiding ladders makes sense, avoiding black cats doesn’t. What about table corners?

An intensive statistical study into the single status of corner sitters has yet to produce any conclusive results 🙂 But using logic alone, one could argue that sitting at a corner may actually make you more marriageable, not less. It depends on your motive.

If the table is crowded, and you choose the corner spot to make more room at the table for others to sit, then you are a great candidate for marriage. Making space for another is the first step in any relationship.

On the other hand, if you sit there because you can’t make up your mind which side to sit on, then perhaps this indicates an indecisive personality. Someone who finds it hard to take a position on anything, who is never here nor there but lost in between, might have a harder time committing to a relationship. That is a corner you don’t want to get stuck at.

May all those seeking their intended one find him/ her easily!

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming and Rabbi Moss

Should Kippahs be removed in public to protect safety?

Menachem Bluming Muses:

Lately, some are cautioning against wearing a Kippah publicly due to mounting Anti Semitism. Should Kippahs be removed in public to protect safety?

Here’s a thought:

There are two ways to wear a kippah. You can wear it on your head, or you can wear it in your head.

Wearing a kippah on your head means it is an article of clothing, an accessory, an external addition to your self.

Wearing it in your head means it is part of you, it is a fixture, a piece of your very self. It is not just what you wear, it is who you are.

If your kippah is on your head, you can take it off. If it’s in your head, then you can never remove it. It is you. And you can’t stop being you, even if others don’t like it.

We need to take every precaution to ensure our safety. Take a course in martial arts, go out in groups. But we can’t stop being who we are. Once we retreat from our own identity, we are already a victim, even if no one tries to harm us.

Learn self-defense. But never forget who that self is that you are defending. It is a head with a kippah.

Credits: Rabbi Moss and Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac, Maryland

Why Bonfires on Lag Baomer?

In the Zohar Haazinu 291a it teaches that Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai spent the last moments of his life doing what he always did: teaching. The mystical ideas that he shared with his devoted students that day were the deepest and most revolutionary teachings he had ever revealed.

But as he conveyed this parting message, there was tension in heaven. Rabbi Shimon’s death was ordained to be that day before sundown. As the afternoon stretched on and evening approached, he had not yet finished sharing his final wisdom. The day would soon be over, but the lesson was not. Rabbi Shimon refused to return his soul until he had revealed all the secrets that it held. His life could only come to end when his mission came to an end. But time was running out.

And so the day didn’t end. The setting sun slowed down, and daylight was extended to allow Rabbi Shimon to say all he needed to say. Only after he had completed his lesson did his holy soul depart and the sun finally set.
On the anniversary of that day each year, to remind us of this miracle, we brighten the night with bonfires.

There is a powerful symbolism in this: You will be allotted enough time to complete your mission and nothing can make your sunset before it is time!

So use your time wisely. Happy Lag Baomer!

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming (Potomac, MD) and Rabbi Moss

Menachem Bluming muses: Why you can’t find your mate??

It doesn’t make sense. You are a wonderful person with so much to offer. Why are you still alone?

There could be many reasons why someone may find it hard to find a partner. But here’s one possibility. You are not available. You’re already married.

You are involved in a longstanding intimate relationship with an imaginary man, Mr. Right. You have conjured an exact picture of the perfect husband, and you are so in love with that image, you are not open to anyone else. No matter how great the guy is, he can’t compare to your dream.

You have become stuck in a bubble with your imaginary love, and are not open to real people. So you haven’t really met dozens of guys. You never actually meet anyone. You see them not for who they are, but rather for who they are not – the imaginary Mr. Right. For no real man can compare to an imaginary one.

A relationship means connecting with another, someone who is not you. You can’t have a relationship with a figment of your own imagination, or with your own assumed caricature of another person. You need to step out of your own mind with its rigid expectations, suspend your prejudices and really open yourself to meeting someone else on their terms. Let yourself be surprised. Otherwise, the man of your dreams will stay right there – in your dreams.

This is meant to be encouraging. There is a real person out there waiting for the chance to meet you. He deserves it. So do you

Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac, Maryland and Rabbi Moss

Menachem Bluming Muses: Why the chicken neck on the Seder Plate?

I look at the empty Seder plate with this lonely chicken neck left behind, and wonder, why is it there?

Here’s a thought: One of the most amazing characters in the story of the Exodus is Pharaoh. He witnessed with his own eyes the downfall of his country, he experienced firsthand the miracles of the Ten Plagues one after the other, he saw how every prediction Moses made came true, and yet he stubbornly refused to let the Israelites go. Only when every firstborn Egyptian died in the final plague did he relent and let them go.

Stubbornness is sometimes called having a stiff neck. The neck connects our head to our body, representing the passageway that translates what we see with our eyes and know with our mind into what we feel with our heart and do with our body. A stiff-necked person is unmoved by what they know to be true. They have blocked neck, and the message just doesn’t reach their heart. This was Pharaoh’s problem.

Indeed, the Hebrew word for neck is הערף -Haoreph. When you rearrange those Hebrew letters it spells Pharaoh פרעה. So the chicken neck that sits on the Seder Plate and doesn’t budge is a little reminder of Pharaoh and his stubbornness. After all the miracles and all the wonders, he is still there, same as ever, unchanged and unmoved.

When we sit at the Seder, we have a choice. We can be like Pharaoh, skeptical, cynical and unimpressed. Or we can take our honored place at the table of Jewish history, and marvel at the miracle that here we are, over three millennia after Pharaoh’s demise, still eating our Matzah and celebrating being Jewish.

Chicken necks get left behind. Don’t be one of those.

Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac Maryland and Rabbi Moss

Why Are Shabbat Laws So Limiting?!

Here’s a thought:

You are out for a romantic dinner, just the two of you. You make a reservation at a fancy restaurant, a quiet table for two in the corner. Gentle music is playing, lights are dimmed, and the ambiance is just perfect for a romantic evening.

You resolve not to talk about work, not to talk about the kids, rather to take the time to really connect and enjoy each other’s company. You laugh together, chit chat, and give one another complete focus and attention.

Then suddenly you say, “Oh, I just remembered something.” You take out your phone and call your business partner to remind him to send a report you are waiting for. It all took no more than fifteen seconds. You quickly put your phone away and smile at your wife.

But she’s not smiling. You just ruined the moment. You destroyed the atmosphere. Until now it was all about the two of you. As soon as you took out your phone, the ambiance was shattered. You brought the outside world into your intimate space.

You could try explaining that it was just a little phone call and is really no big deal. Good luck with that. If you think you can make a business call on a date night, you just don’t get what it means to create an intimate ambiance.

The Shabbat laws are all about creating an ambiance of rest, a moment of spiritual intimacy, when we appreciate G-d’s creation as it is without trying to change it. The state of the world when Shabbos comes in is the way it remains, and we do not interfere. If the light was off, it stays off. The flick of a switch, as insignificant as it may seem, would change the ambiance and ruin the moment.

Someone who has never fully kept Shabbat may find this hard to understand. But if you’ve tasted the profound sense of restfulness that Shabbos can bring, you know how even a slight interruption can make a difference.

We all need date nights and we all need Shabbos. And we need to protect the intimacy of these sacred moments

Rabbi Moss and Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming, Potomac, Maryland

Why Do People Become So Furious?

Haman in the Megilah of Purim had it all! His political position was second to the King! He had great wealth and a large family and a caring wife. He seems to have had good health and the people honored him to the point that they bowed when he came by!

Yet there was one man who irritated him to no end! Mordechai. That one man refused to bow to him, would not even bend when he came by. He could not tolerate this!! He became so enraged that this ultimately brought to his downfall.

In your world are you furiously irritated by something that causes you to overlook the tremendous blessing that fills your life?

Menachem Mendel Bluming has been a rabbi in Potomac, Maryland since 2003

Is Living Together Before Marriage Reasonable?

The argument goes, by living together you can know how someone behaves in various situations. Once you have spent a year or so under one roof, you have tested the relationship to see if it can withstand the varied pressures of life.

But wait. That isn’t true. You only know how things are for that year. You haven’t seen how things will be five years from now. A lot can happen in five years. Surely you need to spend five years together to see how that works before committing for a lifetime.

And then there is the concern about what may happen in ten years. People change, we grow older, sometimes wiser, sometimes not. So you should really live together for a decade before deciding to commit.

And what about children? They change the equation entirely. You need to have kids first to see how the relationship will be when you have kids. And then, a lot of relationships become strained once the kids move out. Maybe you should live together through empty-nesting and old age, and only then see if you are compatible and ready to commit.

This is upside down thinking. Committing when you know everything will be fine is not commitment. The very definition of commitment is that you will stick with it no matter what will be. And none of us know what will be.

If you base your decision to marry someone on the assumption that you know everything about them, what happens when you discover that in fact you don’t? Better recognize that life is full of surprises. Commitment is the force that keeps you together when those surprises come.

So when you meet someone, find out about their values, discuss their priorities, explore their character. Their habits may change, but their character and deep seated values won’t change much. And if you later discover that they sleep with the window open and you need it closed – people with good character who are committed to the relationship will be able to work that one out.

Rabbi Moss and Rabbi Menachem Bluming of Potomac Maryland. The above is not meant to cover all issues, including the Biblical prohibition, of living together before marriage, just to explore how reasonable the argument of its necessity is. There is a lot more on the topic that should be explored.

When Self Analysis Becomes Destructive

It is good to criticize yourself. It is not good to beat up on yourself. The former is necessary for your moral growth, and comes from your soul’s desire to reach higher. The latter is no more than a tactic of the devil inside you, trying to sabotage your life by bringing you down.

The two may seem similar, but in fact they are worlds apart. There are a few tell-tale signs to identify the true source of your thoughts:

Healthy introspection is a deliberate exercise that takes place at a scheduled time of your choosing. You control it, it doesn’t control you. If thoughts of self-criticism come to you spontaneously, unplanned, in the middle of doing something else, then they are just an unwanted interruption to the flow of life, and should be cut off immediately.

Furthermore, healthy self-analysis has a time limit. You can spend ten minutes on it, maybe fifteen. No more. If it goes on forever then it is coming from a place of self-absorption. Wallowing in self-improvement doesn’t improve anyone. If it is endless, it is not coming from a good place. Your inner devil crashes the party and doesn’t know when to leave. Your soul comes with an appointment.

Then, at the end of a good session of introspection, you feel upbeat and positive. You have identified what needs to be fixed and believe in your power to fix it. That is a sign of a healthy self-analysis. But unhealthy self-wallowing leaves you feeling flat and hopeless. There is a twisted pleasure in putting yourself down and making yourself out to be the worst human specimen in the world. After all, that’s quite an achievement. But it’s just not true. You’re not so bad and shouldn’t enjoy thinking you are. It’s just negative indulgence.

Finally, the surest sign of healthy self-analysis is what you do next. If you are spurred on to take action, if you are moved to improve, if you have the momentum to get up and do better, then your introspection came from the right place. But if it makes you feel useless and depressed, inert and lethargic, if you feel what’s the point of it all and why should I bother trying, then you know that’s your devil talking.

So to test the true source of your self-analysis, just ask: When does it happen? For how long? How does it make me feel? And what do I do next? The answers to those questions will tell you whether you are soaring with your soul, or dancing with your devil.

Rabbi Moss and Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming of Potomac, Maryland