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.

Celebrating Chanukah

On Chanukah we celebrate the menorah that is the central symbol of the holiday, not the astounding military victory and attainment of freedom. Because freedom is only worth what you do with it, how you live your life as a result. Because you are free do you kindle the menorah of spreading light and holiness in the world? Money and freedom are just energy… how you use them is what matters.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming serves the Jewish community in Potomac Maryland. Menachem Mendel Bluming and his wife invite you to join the communal menorah lightings

Thanksgiving Thought

You’ve shared with your secretaries that you will double their pay because of their good work… Two possible responses:
#1 “Well it’s about time you paid me what I deserve!”
#2 “Wow, how generous & kind of you… This makes me feel so much more dedicated to the work.” How would you feel after your secretary gave you the first response, how about after the second? After the second you might ask yourself why you didn’t give the raise sooner!! Think about that: What is our response to G-d’s generous goodness to us??

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Bluming is a Potomac Maryland rabbi who leads the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Mendel Bluming and his family have lived in Potomac since 2000.

Human vs. Religious Relationship

Would you rather marry a perfect spouse who will feel no connection to you or an imperfect spouse who will love you? In human relationship how long can marriage last if there is no feeling… When it comes to G-d our action is key. Feeling enhances our mitzvoth/deeds greatly but deed counts most. Hamaaseh hu haikar/ ist is the deed that counts most (Mishna Avot)

Rabbi Mendel Bluming leads the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Chabad of Potomac and Menachem Mendel Bluming’s vision is to serve as a conduit for your Jewish relationship’s growth

Dating Advice

“I’m dating and everything adds up; she seems to be exactly what I am looking for on paper. Just one thing… the love is absent. What do I do!??”

Love can only blossom in an open heart. When our heart is closed we cannot feel affection, even when that affection really is there. And what closes a heart is fear.
You’re scared. You’re scared of your dream coming true. You have finally met a girl who could really end up being your wife. This is what you have prayed for, waited for, and hoped for, for so long. And now that it is in front of you, you’re gripped with fear.

It’s scary to say goodbye to single life. It’s scary to accept that you will marry a real person with flaws and issues, not an imaginary perfect dream person. It’s scary to realize that now you’re growing up, and about to start the next stage in your life, with all the joys and challenges that will bring.
This is why your heart is blocked. Fear and love cannot both be felt at any one time. They are opposites. Fear is the urge to stand back, while love is the yearning to become closer. So ironically, when you meet a serious candidate for marriage, your heart is paralyzed by the fear that this might actually work out. Your blocked feelings might be a good sign. The fear could indicate that this is a relationship worth pursuing.

If you want to give it a chance, you first need to calm your fears. Take a long walk, all alone, and observe what’s going on inside you. Admit that you are scared. Acknowledge that it has nothing to do with her, and everything to do with you. Get comfortable with the idea that you may have found your match. Be grateful to G-d who has sent you such a wonderful woman. Believe in yourself that you are ready to take the plunge and become a married man. Let these ideas slowly sink in, face the reality and make peace with it.
Once you quiet your fears, your heart will be open to love. Then, if she is indeed the one, it won’t take long for the warm feelings to come flooding in. If you want to find love, you have to lose fear.

Rabbi Mendel (Menachem) Bluming is a rabbi in Potomac, Maryland who serves the Jewish community. Mendel Bluming officiates at many life cycle events. Credits also to Rabbi Moss

Why Do Mourners Tear a Garment?

The experience of loss arouses several emotions. On the one hand, death is a tragedy. A loved one is lost to their family and friends, who are left feeling a profound sense of separation and distance that seems beyond repair. For this reason, we observe a seven day intense mourning period, during which the family sits at home and feels the pain and loss, followed by a year of mourning. This helps them slowly accept the new reality; that their loved on has passed on.

But often, the mourners feel that it isn’t really true, it didn’t really happen, they haven’t really gone. This is not just denial. In a way they are right. Death is not the end. Our souls existed before we were born, and they continue to exist after we die. The souls that have passed on are still with us. We can’t see them, but we sense they are there. We can’t hear them, but we know that they hear us. On the surface, we are apart. On a deeper level, nothing can separate us.

So we tear our garments. This has a dual symbolism. We are recognizing the loss, accepting the reality, our hearts are torn, and there is a hole in our lives that can never be healed. But that is only true on the bodily level. The loss is a physical one. But the soul lives on.

The body is no more than a garment that the soul wears. Death is when we strip one uniform and take on another. The garment may be torn, but the essence of the person, the soul, is still intact.

From our worldly perspective death is indeed a tragedy, and the sorrow experienced by the mourners is real. But as they tear their garments we hope that within their pain they can sense a glimmer of a deeper truth; that souls never die.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming serves as rabbi of the Chabad Shul of Potomac since 2003. Among his communal roles, Menachem Mendel Bluming assists community members through this Jewish mourning period. Credits to Rabbi Moss.

Are Synagogues Safe After Pittsburgh?

We have all been deeply affected by the shooting in Pittsburgh.

There is a great danger ahead. The danger is that Jews become intimidated into hiding away. In the wake of such a tragedy, avoiding shul is far riskier than attending. You risk giving your kids the wrong message.

I will never forget something that happened when in Jerusalem during the 2001 intifada. One Thursday afternoon, the busy Sbarro pizza shop, became the target of a Palestinian suicide bomber. He stood amongst the crowds innocently eating their lunch, and exploded himself, killing 15 people, including 7 children and a pregnant woman, and injuring 130. It was an unspeakable tragedy that shook the Jewish world.

It hit me hard too. But what stuck with me was what happened in the aftermath of the attack. Within a few weeks, the pizza store was open for business again. Construction crews worked around the clock to clean up the wreckage and rebuild it like new, as if nothing had happened. A bustling eatery had turned into the scene of mass murder, and then back into a bustling eatery, all in the space of a month. Only one thing had changed. A plaque was placed on the wall that read:

In memoriam of the darkness that befell us on August 9, 2001.
Sbarro Family, City of Jerusalem, and the whole House of Israel.

All the employees came back to work that day, except for one who was killed and two who were still recovering from injury. They resumed serving lunch to their customers, including some who had been there on that dark day only weeks before. The message was powerful: We will not forget the dead, but we will not stop living.

This is the Jewish response to terror. We don’t cower in the face of intimidation. We don’t allow our enemies to define who we are and what we do. We don’t adjust our lives to suit the evil schemes of those who hate us. We are here, and we are here to stay.

It was amazingly poignant that the day Sbarro pizzeria reopened was September 12, 2001, a day after the 9/11 attacks on America. Israel was teaching America and the world the answer to tragedy: we mourn for those who were lost, we pray for those who were hurt, we bring the perpetrators to justice, and we don’t change who we are because someone doesn’t like us.

You now have the opportunity to teach this truth to your children. Make a point to take them to shul, especially on Shabbos. Walk proudly as Jews. And explain to them that we don’t let evil win. We cry for the victims. And we honor them by doing what they wished to do – live as proud Jews.

Rabbi Mendel Bluming has served the Potomac Maryland area community since 2003 through the Chabad Shul of Potomac. Menachem Mendel Bluming encourages Jewish pride knowledge and engagement. This article was written by Rabbi Bluming and Rabbi Moss.