Menachem Bluming Muses: Why Fast on Yom Kippur

In honor of Yom Kippur a Jewish newspaper interviewed me. Not that many read that paper 🙂 so
I figured that I would post the interview. Here goes:

“So Rabbi Bluming when it comes to Yom Kippur most Jews think about how hungry they will be! If G-d wants us to be focused on prayer and returning to him why wouldn’t He allow us to eat so that we can better focus?”
“Yes,” replied Menachem Mendel Bluming, “it is not easy to fast.”

“Not easy?”, we asked. “It seems that when I fast I am so preoccupied by food and how hungry I am that I can hardly focus on anything else!”

“You got it! That is exactly the point.” Mendel Bluming asserted.

“Really? I am not sure what you mean by that.” We asked Bluming.

“Yom Kippur is the day for me to put myself aside to focus on G-d and my spiritual destiny. By fasting, I can reflect on what a pitiful existence my body is. Just withhold sushi and quinoa and bagels and lox for one day and I can hardly focus or think straight! I see myself as an independent existence answerable to no one and yet my hunger proves that I am so very dependent.” Menachem Bluming shared.

“Interesting. So the fasting is meant to remind us how small we are?” We asked Rabbi
Menachem Mendel Bluming.

“The main obstacle to our closeness with G-d is our ego. It insists that it is completely independent and owes nothing. When your stomach growls it reminds us how dependent and small we are on our own and that is the gateway to an open heart.” Bluming taught.

I hope that you find this insightful and I wish you and yours a sweet new year!
Menachem M. Bluming

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.

Question asked to Menachem M. Bluming Why do we recite the Shabbat Kiddush over wine?

Here’s a thought:

On the very first Friday of history, Adam and Eve were created in the afternoon. On that first day, they were told not to eat from the fruit of one tree, the Tree of Knowledge, until nightfall.

The mystics teach us that the tree was a grape vine. Grapes are a fruit that contains the potential for abundant good and abundant evil. Over a glass of wine friendships are made and destroyed, lives are enhanced and ruined, hopes are created and dashed. It is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.

The prohibition was only to last until nightfall that day. Upon the start of Shabbos, they were allowed to eat from the fruit. However they did not wait.

We correct this mistake by making Kiddush on Friday night over wine or grape juice. It is to remind us that we can only have enjoyment of the pleasures of this world if we can also defer our enjoyment. If you can wait, then you are the master of your desires. If you can’t, then you are slave to them. The ability to control yourself is the key to being a good person. It starts with the way we eat, and extends to every choice we make. It elevates us above our base desires and empowers us to be masters over ourselves and reach out for a higher calling.

Menachem Mendel Bluming and Rabbi Moss taken from Shach al Hatorah, quoted in Likkutei Torah Kedoshim 29a