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"Shabbat Shalom from Bangkok"

Murphy? who is he?

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

There was a novice rabbi who was about to give his maiden speech in the synagogue he had been hired to lead.

The newbie asked the retiring rabbi for a tip. The elderly rabbi told him, excuse yourself just before the speech, make kiddush and have a shot of lechayim, it will help take the edge off your nervousness.

After the speech the novice asked the seasoned rabbi how he did.

‘You were great, till you said that Samson beat the xxxx out of the Philistines’.

The language we use, the tone of voice, the gruffness or politeness, these are all indicative of who we are.

Some things may be commonly said by cussing sailors and it doesn’t raise any eyebrows, but they certainly don’t bel ong in a rabbi’s sermon.

This weeks parsha speaks about how Yitschak (whose eyes sight has dimmed) asked Esav to bring him some freshly prepared meat and come to receive a blessing from him. Yitschak’s wife Rivka realized that her husband had been duped by Esav’s outwardly righteous behavior and she quickly organized for Yaakov the truly righteous son, to bring the meat to his father Yitschak and receive the blessing.

When Yaakov arrived with the meat he said to his father:

Please arise and be seated at the table, and partake of my meat, so that you may grant me your soul's blessing.

Yitschak asked his son, "How did you find it so quickly, my son?" He replied, "Because God, your God, arranged it to happen this way for me."

Yitschak said to himself, "This seems out of character for Esau: he does not usually mention God, nor does he usually address me so politely."

He therefore said to Jacob, "Please come close and let me touch you, my son. Are you really my son Esau?"

Click here for the continuation of the story (scroll down to 27:1).

My dear friends,

I would like to zoom in and highlight Yaakov’s words. ‘Because G-d arranged it to happen this way for me’.

These words are not just a onetime statement by Yaakov. Rather they represent a perspective on life.

It behooves us to remember that it is Hashem who is the source and cause of everything we have.

Not just should we think that way in our minds, but we should verbalize this belief in the words that we speak, as this causes the message to resonate more deeply within us.

Thus, we look for ways to integrate the mentioning of Hashem in almost every spoken interaction.

Here are some examples of casual conversations where G-d’s presence can be noted:

How are you feeling?

Baruch (blessed be) Hashem, I am feeling fine!

Are you planning to attend the Torah study session tonight?

Be’ezrat (with the help of) Hashem I plan to be there!

Are you going to Miami during the winter?

Im Yitrzeh Hashem (if Hashem wants) I will go to the warmer climate for a few days during the winter!

I just spent several days with my Shluchim colleagues. All of us live very much with the recognition as Yaakov said, that ‘God arranged it to happen this way for me’.

The unique success associated with the work of Chabad is G-dly success. Neither I, nor any of my colleagues thinks that it is their prowess and talent that has granted them the astounding success that they are blessed with. The miracles, small and large are quite prominent and leave no room for doubt.

The Divine Providence that Hashem shows us makes it clear and obvious that it is Hashem who has arranged things to work out with success.

Here is one of my favorite stories.

The Shliach of one of the cities in Florida was really stressed out. He had deferred some very important payments to the very final date. He could no longer push off the payment. If he did not come up with a few hundred thousand dollars, the school he had founded would be in jeopardy. But he had no idea where he could raise that kind of money. Anyone he knew had already contributed and there was still this large amount missing. To whom could he even turn to talk about such a large sum? There was only person he could think of. A certain philanthropist who lived in his region and was generous with this Tzedaka. He had the ability to contribute such a large amount if he but wanted.

The problem was, that this particular person was not so easy to contact. How would he even get an appointment to see him? The Shliach had a brainwave. The philanthropist was making a celebration for his son’s bar mitzvah a few days later. The rabbi figured he would stop by to wish mazel tov and perhaps he could find an angle to be able to talk about supporting his school.

As ‘murphy’s law’* (see below) would have it, on the day of that bar mitzvah, the rabbi was called to officiate at a funeral of a woman who had passed away. It was someone who he knew only vaguely, but the funeral home said that there was no family and no other rabbi to whom she had any connection. The rabbi didn’t hesitate. He knew what the right thing was to do. The mitzvah of burying a dead, especially when there is no one else to do it (Met Mitzvah), is a mitzvah of the highest and holiest proportion.

But, to be truthful, with this major financial crisis breathing down his neck he was feeling quite disappointed about missing the opportunity to meet the philanthropist who seemed to be the possible solution to his crisis.

The funeral time was set and the rabbi figured out that he could still race straight from the funeral to the bar mitzvah. However there would be no time for a shower. Taking into account the Florida heat, he asked his wife to meet him at the bar mitzvah hall with a fresh change of clothing.  

Sweating profusely from performing the Jewish funeral including the tradition of shoveling the earth to cover the casket, he arrived at the bar mitzvah hall predictably hot and exhausted. His wife gave him the change of clothing and he went into the men’s room to change. In emptying his pants pocket, he took a peek at the envelope handed him by the funeral director just after the funeral as he was racing out.

Presumably it was a few dollars for his officiating fee.

Except that it wasn’t a few dollars.

It was a check for a few hundred thousand dollars. The precise amount that he needed to pay his outstanding obligations.

The funeral director later explained that the woman had left instructions to give this money to the rabbi who would perform the funeral. But only if he did the service without knowing about the donation in advance.

The rabbi, in his fresh change of clothing, and in an exalted state of mind, went into the philanthropist’s bar mitzvah with a bounce in his step. Albeit he was not an invited guest, but that just made it more spontaneous and real.

He turned to the philanthropist and told him ‘I admire you so much for your philanthropy that I could not resist coming to wish you mazel tov on this special day’.

It was truer than true. He currently had no other reason to come to this bar mitzva other than to wish a heartfelt mazel tov to this benevolent philanthropist.

Hashem had taken care of alleviating his financial crisis.

He had no other agenda anymore for attending the bar mitzvah other than genuinely wishing mazel tov.

The philanthropist was so touched that the rabbi came to wish him a heartfelt mazel tov even without being invited, that he struck up a friendship with him and went on to become a supporter of that Jewish educational initiative.

This is a story that is quite similar to the stories that my colleagues and I all have. Perhaps not quite as dramatic but with the same Divine Providential theme.

We are blessed that as emissaries of the great tzaddik, the Rebbe, we have the blessings of Hashem showering down upon us in an unusually and extraordinarily visible and potent way.

The results of these miracles are the Chabad shuls, schools, community centers and Jewish activity that are thank G-d flourishing on all four corners of the globe.

The Rebbe taught, there is a saying among Chasidim that goes as follows:

‘A Jew should behave with Hashem as a goat behaves with its owner.

The goat ‘knows’ that it must produce milk.

It also ‘knows’ that it has no reason to be concerned about what it will eat and drink. Nor does it need to be concerned about having a stable to sleep in.

All of those concerns  are all up to the owner’.

The lesson for our lives is so crystal clear.

Always focus on doing what you know to be the right thing to do from Hashems perspective.

Our job is to ‘produce milk’ for Him.

Don’t worry about the things that are His responsibility to us.

You may be facing a problem that seems pressing, you may be tempted to put aside what you ought to be doing in favor of doing something that would seem to be solving your problems, but that is not the correct path to take.

Hashem is in charge of everything.

Which means in a very practical way. At all times there is but one question.

What does Hashem want me to do right now.

All the rest is on His responsibility. It will somehow fall into place. (And if He doesn’t want it to fall ‘into place’, whatever you will do won’t make it happen…).

Sometimes you will get the great gift and merit to see the guiding Hand of G-d in its sheer brilliance. You will see how through doing the right thing, your original problem is solved in a way you never could have imagined.

Sometimes things will remain shrouded in Divine mystery, but ultimately following the path of Hashem leads us to exactly where we need to be.

When we are blessed to experience ‘small miracles’ of this nature we should make sure to share them with our loved ones as well. So that we actively look out for the Hand of Hashem in our lives.

Do the right thing for Hashem!

Hashem will show you how it was the right thing for your own benefit as well!

With blessings for a Shabbat Shalom

And a Chodesh Tov (today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Kislev which means that Chanuka is around the corner…).

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

*

Ah, I said I wanted to tell you something about Murphy.

Who was Murphy of Murphy’s law?

I really don’t know. And I certainly don’t believe in that ‘law. We just finished talking about how G-d is in charge of every small details. Not murphy. If you have never even heard of that preposterous ‘law’ called ‘murphy’s law’, good for you. Don’t bother looking it up.

But I do want to share something about a different Murphy.

The late Ron Fleitman who passed away in Thailand earlier this year, and was buried in our local Jewish cemetery, was proud to tell me that he had his bar mitzvah in Murphy’s Shul across the street from 770 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn NY, in the 1940’s.

On Monday night of this week I remembered Ron (Yehuda ben Hershel z”l) as I gave a talk to a group of Yeshiva boys who study in Yeshiva Chovevei Torah housed in Murphy’s Shul.

Why is it called Murphy’s Shul?

Because the Irishman Mr. Murphy, whose bar ‘Murphy’s Bar’ stood at that very location, deeded his property to a group of Jews to build a shul.

In tribute to Murphy, who had given his very prominent Eastern Parkway location to build a Shul, the Shul was fondly referred to as Murhphy’s Shul.

Now that is a Murphy with a good lesson for all of us.

Money comes. Money goes. Material pleasures are fleeting.

Our good deeds live on for eternity.

Do a mitzvah and it is ‘yours’ for eternity. It’s the best investment possible!

 

Love is irresistible. Shabbat shalom from New York

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

It was Chanuka in the 1970’s during a tense security period in Israel. The Rebbe’s message to his followers in Israel was clear. Visit every Israeli army base to strengthen the spirit and gladden the hearts of the young chayalim (soldiers).

Rabbi Yisrael led a group of yeshiva students to visit a large army base in Israel. They interacted with the soldiers, offering them a chance to lay tefillin as well as distributing sufganiyot (donuts) in honor of Chanuka.

R’ Yisrael overheard a conversation between two commanding officers.

One officer, while not religious, was a traditional Jew and comfortable with doing mitzvot when given the chance. He had just finished putting on tefillin and was now happily enjoying a sufganiya. He was conversing with his colleague who was adamant that he didn’t want to put on tefillin, neither did he want a sufganiya.

The traditional officer asked his friend, ‘What do you have against the warm sweet sufganiya, that you refuse to partake of it?  I am not asking you about why you are resistant to putting on Tefilin, but what do you have against an innocuous donut’?

To which the unyielding officer responded:

‘Don’t you see how inside that sufganiya there is the ‘neshama’ (soul) of the Rebbe of Lubavitch? The moment I eat that sufganiya I will start thinking differently and eventually behaving differently’

Rabbi Yisrael overheard this exchange in the 70’s. I heard it from his son, who runs a Chabad House in London, just a few hours ago.

Where did I hear it?  

In New York.

Once a year, the Rebbe would invite all of his Shluchim (emissaries) to convene a conference.

Yes, the conference of Shluchim is being held this weekend with 6,500 rabbis and Jewish lay leaders participating. It is expected to be the biggest conference ever held yet please G-d. It is the year of ‘Hakhel’ gathering after all.

A journalist asked me to sum up in an ‘elevator pitch’, my feelings about the importance of coming to the Kinus (gathering) of Shluchim.

Here is what I shared with him.

When I come to the Kinus in the Rebbe's 'court' I remind myself why I went out to Thailand, rededicate myself to those values and that core mission, imbibe wisdom and experience from peers, and get energized and reared up from the camaraderie and energy of the thousands of my like-minded and focused brothers and colleagues

There will be serious introspective moments. When we all gather at the Rebbe’s holy resting place – the Ohel – we pledge to try to do better that we have done till know, and we pray for ourselves, our families and our respective community – you – to have all the gifts of health and blessings needed for carrying out our respective roles.

There will be many uplifting moments. Meeting old friends. Eating Shabbat meals together. Having comradely Farbrengens with each other.

In our family’s case, my parents will get to have their sons at their Friday night Shabbat table. This is unique, as my parents rarely if ever get their kids at their Shabbat table as thank G-d my parents are blessed to have all of their children living ‘out of town’. Each of their children were appointed as Shluchim of the Rebbe in various parts of the USA and world.

The overriding agenda is always about making this world a better, G-dlier, more moral, and more peaceful place. i.e. about bringing Mashiach.

The intended outcome of this weekend is first of all, a massive reenergizing of the existing family of thousands of Shluchim. If the motivational levels increase within each of us, the results in terms of output and yield will grow commensurately.

This conference and its adrenaline, will inspire additional couples to go out on Shlichus. This will generate exponential growth in the Jewish world.

There will be new ideas generated for community programming, from toddlers through seniors. For teens and for college campuses. For special needs children and for young professionals. For every niche and segment within the Jewish community, there is a group of Shluchim who are servicing that demographic and are developing programing and sharing ideas.

And then there is something else that this weekend will imbue.

Upon hearing the story of the Israeli army base, I realized that the sufganiya-resisting officer in the 1970’s picked up on something that is subtle yet so real.

The sufganiyot were not just donuts.

The Rebbe was not teaching his Chassidim to give out donuts.

He was guiding them on how to transmit his best wishes and unlimited love for the fellow Jews they were visiting.

The officer felt that love shining through the sufganiya.

It is that love that the officer was wary of.

Love is irresistible.

As King Solomon taught in Mishlei 27:19 ‘As water reflects the face so one's heart reflects the feelings of the other's heart’.

The officers only mistake was that he shied away from that love. His life would have only been enhanced by having embraced that love.

If you dig deeper, what lies behind the incessant requests the Rebbe made of us to offer fellow Jews opportunities to perform individual mitzvahs whenever and wherever possible?

Love.

If I love you, I want to try and get you to do the most amazing thing you can do for your soul (and body). Perform a mitzvah.

And by the same token, because I love you, I want to send you a sweet donut on Chanuka.

The motivation to send your students and chassidim to all corners of the glove to offer a fellow Jew the opportunity to lay Tefilin, is the same motivation for sending a sweet sufganiya to a solider in a tense army base.

Its all about Ahavat Yisrael. It is about seeing the ‘neshama’ in a fellow Jew. And treating it with the love it deserves.

LOVE.

This is at the core.

The sufganiya is merely the expression of that love.

If you like bagels and lox, then that love can be expressed through that.

The most powerful gift one Jew can give another Jew will always be the opportunity to share a mitzvah. The greatest sum of money or most indescribably exquisite gift is infinitely smaller than the ‘smallest’ mitzvah. This is why Chabadniks can sometimes even come across as ‘nagging’ when offering a fellow Jew to share a mitzvah. It is simply such an incredible opportunity for the recipient that we don’t want to give up on easily.

The conference is an opportunity to reconnect to that spirit of Ahavat Yisrael, the inspiration that the Rebbe imbued us with and make sure that it remains at the core of our mission.

This great love that the Rebbe, a true Jewish leader, had and has for each and every Jew, is expressed in the Tefilin we lay with fellow Jews, in the Shabbat candles we inspire Jewish women to light, and also in the warm chicken soup and sweet sufganiyot, among all the other forms of material assistance that Chabad Shluchim administer.

Act of love by act of love.

Mitzvah by mitzvah.

The world will thus be transformed into a world ready for Mashiach.

You too can join the revolution by carrying the torch forward, by doing more mitzvahs and by finding ways to transmit the true love and Ahavat Yisrael that is at the very foundation of the entire Torah.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

'nagging' reframed

Dear Friend,

I got a phone call this week that both inspired me and simultaneously ‘took me to task’.

The call came from a colleague who is the Rebbe’s Shliach to a city in UK that has a very small Jewish community. As part of his pastoral responsibilities, he is the Jewish chaplain at the local hospitals.

Rabbi J. was called to the bedside of a woman who is facing a very serious illness.

She told the rabbi about her Jewish ancestry. Her mothers, mothers, mother was Jewish. Her great grandmother was buried in a Jewish cemetery. Her grandmother, while married to a non-Jew, kept Shabbat every week.

It was a tenuous connection she had with her Jewish identity that was hanging on by a ‘thread’.

The spark of Jewishness in her soul prevailed. It eventually caused her to search for Jewish connection.

In her quests for meaning, she discovered Chabad.org and became an avid student of the ongoing classes. The ‘live’ broadcasts on Chabad.org’s Facebook page were especially dear to her.

And that is why I merited hearing this story.

While hooked up to oxygen, battling a serious illness (may Hashem send her a miraculous recovery) she told the visiting rabbi that she wanted to thank the rabbi’s on the Facebook page for their classes.

And when she commented on my classes on Facebook she specifically wanted to give me thanks for opening up the daily class with the joyous singing of a Chassidic melody.

This is not the first time I have received touching regards from people I have never met who have been listening to classes I have given.

But this is certainly the most heartfelt and touching message I have received.

As Rabbi J. explained to me, besides her Jewish identity being so nearly lost to the assimilation that comes with intermarriage, she also lives in an area of the UK which has no organized Jewish life within a fifty miles radius.

What were the chances of her being able to study Torah and be inspired to reconnect to Judaism.

And now, against all odds, her life is deeply bound up with the three thousand years of tradition that emanate from the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

All because of the vision of the Rebbe who saw the development of technology and modernity as tools to spread the knowledge of G-d to the four corners of the world. Thus, the pioneering work of Chabad.org on the internet is constantly adapting to utilize the newest technology as it unfolds.

It was a wakeup call of sorts for me personally.

While I have tried to restart my Facebook posts on Chabad.org, there are technicalities that have hindered me.

Why have I not worked harder to solve those technical issues?

Perhaps there was a little voice inside of me saying that if it is so important then someone from the internet broadcast team would be on my back reminding me or even ‘nudging’ (as in nagging) me to get back online. I was not proactive enough about overcoming the issues.

However, if a woman struggling for her life, takes the effort to thank me personally for my contribution to her Jewish experience, it makes me recognize, that I too, need to try a bit harder.

This story is a reminder for me that one needs to be proactive in their acts of giving and kindness, not just reactive.

It just ‘so happens’ that this is a poignant message that can be culled from this weeks Parsha.

This week’s Parsha opens up with the following narrative.

Avraham had his circumcision at the age of ninety-nine. G-d had made it swelteringly hot in his area so that no one would be walking in the streets. Thus Avraham, the indefatigable and legendary ‘hospitality man’ would not need to host anyone. After all, it takes a little while to recover from the operation that he went through. Hashem wanted to give him recovery time.

Avraham didn’t enjoy his enforced respite. He was unhappy. He wanted to host people. But there was no one in sight. So, he sat at the entrance of his tent and waited with anticipation. Perhaps someone will show up out there in the streets and be available to be a recipient of his hospitality.

When the Almighty saw Avraham’s burning desire to host, and the anguish that he felt by not having guests, He sent three angels in the guise of men. Avraham saw them and indeed prepared a lavish meal to host them.

This aspect of Avraham’s kindness is unique.

There are many people who are responsive to those who are in need.

When a poor person, or worthy institution turns to them and asks them for help, they contribute generously.

However, if they are not approached and solicited, they are happy to remain on the sidelines.

When there is a need they don’t run away. They are genuinely kind people. Yet, they are not actively searching for ways to activate their charitable muscle.

Avraham’s approach was twofold. Avraham was attentive and super-responsive to the needs of those around him.

Avraham was also constantly proactively searching for opportunities to be kind and help others. To the point that when he deserved to take some ‘time off’ to heal himself, the lack of ability to give caused him so much pain that Hashem provided miraculous angelic guests to be recipients of his kindness.

The message from Avraham our Patriarch’s behavior is inspiring and compelling.

The first thing is to make sure to respond to calls for help that reach you. React with benevolence and charitableness.

But don’t stop there. Don’t just be a responder to pleas that reach you.

Dig deeper into your heart and see how you can broaden and widen the circle of those whom you help. What else can you initiate that will be helpful to those in the world around you who can utilize your help.

Even if you must persevere and toil to find and implement those giving opportunities, don’t shy away from being proactive.

In our times of connectivity, the parameters of whom we can reach have broadened to being nearly limitless.

It used to be that you could only help people in your immediate proximity. Avraham only recourse to search for hospitality opportunities, was to sit at the entrance to his tent and scour the horizon for guests.

Today the world is open in a way that it never before was.

You can help people and causes from all four corners of the world.

If you search for ways to implement goodness and kindness, the opportunities are endless.

(It’s important to insert a word of caution that one also needs to focus and not be pulled in all directions. There are some clear limitations and guidelines to ensure how we channel our giving. The Torah teaches us that we need to focus on family first, then community and only then should we go more global)

The same thing goes for spiritual giving and sharing of inspiration.

Today one can spread Torah knowledge and inspiration to individuals from all walks of life, on all four corners of the globe. Jews who are wandering in the proverbial desert and desperately thirsty for the soothing waters of the word of G-d are able to be reached via the ubiquitous internet.

Thank you, Rabbi J., for sharing this with me.

Thank you, dear student, for making the great effort to record your words of thanks to my colleagues and I who broadcast on the Chabad.org page. May you be blessed with a miraculous recovery.

I have heard the message I need to hear.

Please G-d I am going to try harder, and overcome the ‘hiccups’ to get back on the ‘air’ with messages from the Torah for contemporary times. At least once a week please G-d. And yes, with a joyous melody to set the tone.

Look out for me on Sundays on Chabad.org Facebook page.

‘Start your week with Torah light and joy, delivered live from Bangkok’

And may G-d provide you with opportunities to ‘flex your giving muscle’.

Here is the first step I think one should take.

Don’t look at solicitations for help as being a ‘pain in the neck’.

Rather, view them as G-d gift to you.

Deep down, you really want to give. Its in your DNA. By having people ‘chase you’ for help, G-d is giving you the opportunity to actualize that potential.

It’s Hashem sending you a gift to encourage and enable you to merit the great mitzvah of helping others with tzedakah.

When you reframe people’s requests of you, as G-d giving you the gift of being able to give, (just like he did when he sent Avraham the angels), you will discover how uplifting and special it is to be solicited for tzedakah. The recipient will get the gift of receiving tzedakah with a smile. This is the highest and most noble form of giving.

And once you get ‘hooked on giving’, you will not suffice with those causes that chase you.

You will start to look out for opportunities to volunteer to help others.

It’s ‘addictive’ in the most positive and powerful way.

Not an addiction to something external to us. For as descendants and progeny of Avraham, giving tzedakah and helping others, is at the core of who we truly are.

Lechayim, may we always merit to be able to give!

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

Act First

By the Grace of G-d

Dear Friend,

Sometimes you hear something that sounds so ridiculous that it sticks in your memory.

‘The only thing that I know I will do for the rest of my life, is check my Facebook account daily’.

Why do I think it is an unrealistic statement?

Well, for starters, who knows if Facebook will even be around for much longer. Will it still be popular in the future? Do you still remember how to operate a computer using DOS? Or a program called Lynx for browsing the web. Fax machines have come and gone. How many people still use ‘Hotmail’? I think you get my point.

But most importantly, regardless of whether that brand of technology will still be around or not, how could you propose to know how you will feel when you start ageing. Are you so sure that you will still care about what people are thinking about you? Would you really care as a wise elderly person, how many ‘likes’ you have on your FB page? Conversely, will you still be motivated to see what people are posting about themselves?

Maybe yes. But maybe no.

Let me change that statement slightly.

But radically.

‘I hope that the one thing I will do every day for the rest of my life, is put on Tefilin’

(except Shabbat and Chagim of course).

Or a slightly altered statement.

‘I hope that on every Friday for the rest of my life, I will kindle Shabbat candles’ .

You can ask the same question.

Will Tefillin be around forever?

And the same question I asked earlier. How do I know how I will feel about Tefilin as I age?

Same with Shabbat candles.

Will the practice continue to exist?

Well,  the New York Times thinks it will.

Rhona Lewis wrote an article about the meaning of lighting Shabbat candles on Friday afternoon before Shabbat comes in. I am sharing the following excerpt which I found fascinating:

Let us see to what extent candle-lighting has become associated with our nation.  On January 1, 2000, the New York Times ran a Millennium Edition. It was a special issue that featured three front pages. One had the news from January 1, 1900. The second was the actual news of the day, January 1, 2000. And then they had a third front page—projecting envisioned future events of January 1, 2100. This fictional page included things like a welcome to the fifty-first state: Cuba; a discussion as to whether robots should be allowed to vote; and so on. And in addition to the fascinating articles, there was one more thing. Down on the bottom of the Year 2100 front page was the candle-lighting time in New York for January 1, 2100. Reportedly, the production manager of the New York Times—an Irish Catholic—was asked about it. His answer was right on the mark. It speaks to the eternity of our people, and to the power of Jewish ritual. He said, “We don’t know what will happen in the year 2100. It is impossible to predict the future. But of one thing you can be certain—that in the year 2100 Jewish women will be lighting Shabbat candles.”

I can personally vouch for that story. By Divine Providence I met the marketing expert who had placed the Shabbat Candle lighting times for several years during the 1990’s. They were paid for by a Jewish philanthropist who was later unable to continue the expensive space on the front page of the NY Times. He had stopped paying for those lines by year 2000 but the NY Times included it in their millennial edition as the non-Jewish editor was quite sure that the Jewish people will continue to believe in G-d and His Torah and Mitzvot for eternity!

Can I be sure that doing Mitzvahs will be meaningful for me in the future?

I certainly hope so.

The greatest gift one can have in life is to be connected to G-d through observing his Mitzvot.

The reward of a Mitzvah is the actual connection formed by the fulfillment of the mitzvah. Click here for more on this.

But even if it is not meaningful to me.

As a Jew, I know that it truly doesn’t matter if these Mitzvahs will feel meaningful to me or not.

The main thing is that I physically observe them.

It wasn’t always that way.

You see, there are two ways to look at Jewish observance.

One is the bottom-up approach.

Here is how that process works.

First let me meditate and get inspired about connecting to G-d.

Then let me talk about it and discuss it with others.

Finally let me implement my inspiration by doing a deed that expresses my connection to G-d.

The other way is a top-down approach.

The breakdown goes as follows.

First let me do the action of the Mitzvah.

Let me then discuss and study about it.

And then let me meditate on it and make sure I connect deeply with its meaning and significance.

Close to four thousand years ago, Avraham, the first ‘Jew’, searched for G-d. He climbed the ladder in his quest for the truth.

Emerging from a society that was totally vested in the confusion and darkness of idolatry, he found G-d. He came to this realiztion by meditating on the logical imperative of the presence of a creator to this sophisticated and diverse universe. It couldn’t just have ‘happened’ he realized. There must be a Creator who designed it all.

From his meditation he moved to preaching to others about his newfound discovery.

After that, Hashem gave him the mitzvah and he did the action of circumcision.

With the formalization of the Jewish nation at Mount Sinai, Hashem gave instructions for the future of Judaism.

It was now going to be a reversal of Avraham’s journey.

Top-down.

First the deed.

Circumcision eight days after birth.

Then, fine tune your speech.

And follow that by aligning your mind and heart with your deeds and speech. Click here for more.

The Mitzvah action is most important. Understanding, inspiration and motivation can follow.

Therein lies the difference between those rituals that you do based on motivation and G-dly mandated Mitzvahs.

Checking your Facebook account is a result of a desire to connect socially. If you lose that desire, there is no reason or purpose to open your account.

Doing a Mitzvah deed is an instruction from the Almighty.

It makes absolutely no difference if you feel like it or you would rather snuggle inactive all day under your covers.

A Jewish boy becomes Bar Mitzvah and learns that he has joined a very special ‘club’. Something that please G-d he will do for the rest of his life. Hopefully he will ‘feel like it’ but even if not, never mind. When the sun rises, he knows that sometime before sunset he will be making every effort to lay Tefilin.

And the same notion applies to all of the other mitzvahs.

Take tzedakah for example.

Some causes make us feel motivated to be helpful.

A cute little child who needs food or medical attention. The heartstrings pull and the pocketbook opens naturally without much effort.

Sometimes, the person who is in need is irksome and irritating. He doesn’t engender and desire within us to help. Truthfully we would rather just walk away and ignore.

The Jewish way is to take action regardless of feeling.

It’s great to be in the mood to give. But what to do if you are not in the mood? It’s very simple. If objectively there is a need to help, then help should be given. Regardless of how you feel about it. If you are not sure, consult an unbiased third party to get an honest appraisal.

Doing without feeling seems a bit uninspiring.

Have no fear. Inspiration and elation will follow.

The G-dly (albeit counterintuitive) blessing in all this is, that once you do the action, Hashem makes sure that you get the inspiration. Usually right away, sometimes with a delay.

When in doubt?

When you are not motivated.

Don’t wait to get inspired.

Take the leap.

Do a Mitzvah.

The feeling will follow.

It always does.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Yosef Kantor

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