From the Desk of Rabbi Weisblum

These articles by Rabbi Weisblum are published in 17 area newspapers.

September 5, 2021   July 29, 2021   June 29, 2021   May 11, 2021   March 23, 2021   

September 5, 2021   

Rosh Hashanah Message

In just a few days, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the sound of the shofar blasts will be heard. It is a time for the High Holidays; time that we gather with our families, neighbors, and friends, and concentrate on prayer and introspection. A time to give thanks for the ways in which we have been blessed, and strive to improve our relationships by asking forgiveness and making amends. These are the Days of Awe to acknowledge the Almighty as the creator and ruler of the universe; renew and strengthen our commitment to a spiritual way of life, and pray for a sweet new year—a healthy and peaceful year.

The Biblical Moses, on the very last day of his life, at the age of 120, leaves the earthly world with an everlasting important message: "Choose life!". His ancient message has become more than relevant during history and especially in the past year. We all have a choice. Each one of us has the free will to decide how to direct our thoughts and actions. Each of us can choose to hold on firmly to the principles and values of faith and gratitude. Each of us can choose to do one more good deed, one more act of kindness, to help tip the balance of the world toward life.

On Rosh Hashanah, we look to our past, as well as to our future, for the growing of spiritual strength as well as staying committed to a positive energy way of life. We reach back into our collective history to draw inspiration and to learn from the wisdom of our heritage. At the same time, we look ahead toward future generations, knowing that what we choose for our own lives today will affect our children, our children’s children, and, indeed, the future of the world. When we choose to align our way of life with the divine presence, we are doing our part to help create a society that is humane and G-dly. We are fighting the darkness of the world with the light of our good deeds.

This is a time of return, or repentance when we are focused on the process of improving ourselves and coming closer to the Almighty. By actively engaging ourselves through self-evaluation, reconciliation, prayer, and giving an extra measure of charity—we are choosing life, just as the generation in the desert did after they heard Moses’s message. Hopefully then we will see the good that emerges even in the midst of darkness, and we will recognize that every one of us has the power to make meaningful changes by the choices that we make.

As the High Holidays begin, we look back on all the moments during the past year that give us reason for hope. Around the world, a new generation is reaching for their universal healing of the pandemic and all its consequences.

In our community, we've responded to our challenges by focusing on what really matters – education, friendship, family, and community.

This last year was one of hardship for people everywhere. Too many of our friends and neighbors continue to struggle in the wake of difficult health and economic challenges. And beyond our borders, many of our closest allies, face the uncertainties of an unpredictable age.

As Jewish tradition teaches us, we may not complete the work, but that must never keep all of us from trying. In that spirit, I wish you and your families a sweet year full of health, happiness, and peace.

L'Shana Tova Umetuka,
Rabbi Moshe Weisblum, PhD

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July 29, 2021   

Appreciate Yourself/Appreciate Others

Do you sometimes feel unappreciated? How often do we hear the complaint that people don’t feel appreciated enough, or worse, they don't feel appreciated at all.

It is basic human nature to want to feel acknowledged and grateful for a job well done, for our efforts, our time, our talents, our skills. A simple "thank you" goes a long way. Sometimes, in our personal life, we may feel unappreciated by our own family members. Even friends and acquaintances sometimes seem to take our friendship for granted. Often, we see a lack of acknowledgement in our business lives from bosses and co-workers. Sometimes it is even a fair and generous boss who is not appreciated by his or her employees.

The same can be said about people who dedicate themselves to a particular organization, like a political cause or a humanitarian project. Too many give their time, their finances and their support to causes they believe are important, only to be disappointed by the lack of "thank you" and acknowledgments. Devoted employees, who often at the expense of precious family time, find that a promotion or bonus for hard work, never materializes.

Our elders expound on this theme saying, "When the wicked are in trouble, they are submissive, but when their trouble is ended, they return to their wicked ways." This is exactly what happened between the Biblical Joseph and Pharoh. When Pharoh needed Joseph to help save Egypt’s failing economy, Joseph and his family were shown tremendous appreciation and treated royally. Once life was going well, Pharoh seemed to develop a sense of amnesia about Joseph's contribution on behalf of the community. Gone were the "thank you" and other tokens of appreciation. It makes no sense. This psychopathology-passive aggressive, schizophrenia, split personality, call it what you want, it was a total reversal and it was wicked. A real Dr. Jeckle/Mr. Hyde scenario.

So, how should we handle this in a practical matter? The best remedy is the little voice in our head that says, "Do the right thing! Do what our Heavenly father expects from you." Even if there is someone's voice in our mind instructing us to do otherwise, we should not listen, and not stop helping others or lose faith in humanity, just because we did not receive immediate appreciation.

It is important to look at the bigger picture, the future results of maintaining our "do the right thing" attitude instead of the selfish and wrong "what is in it for me". This is called keeping your eye on the target, adding spirituality and meaning to the world, and increasing good and pure virtues which are the pillars of existence. It requires wisdom, truth, faith and patience. Perspective has its advantages. Keeping one’s perspective on the bigger world prevents the disease known as "small mindedness."

Always try to be the best person you can, serve those around you with all your heart and soul, and all your resources. Do what you do with a full heart, and do not do unto others what is hateful to you. If you receive the appreciation you deserve, well that is wonderful. However if you don’t, then pat yourself on the back and learn to appreciate yourself. Give yourself positive feedback and respect. Don't make decisions only because of applause or overt reward.

Be part of the community. Help your community and stay involved. Follow the paths of peace. Let us be wise, brave and enthusiastic about our time on this earth. Let us make a wonderful difference and let us always strive to show others appreciation and spread the message of "thank you." Let us remember, that G-d, the Creator of the universe, watches all our deeds and we should pursue our daily actions for the sake of heaven.

So, appreciate yourself. Be your biggest fan. Stay humble because you were created by G-d to do good. If you want more appreciation, start by showing others more appreciation.

Rabbi Moshe Weisblum, PhD

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June 29, 2021   

Less About Me, More About You

It was 1986, and I had just started my first big executive job at an international food company. As a young manager, I was seeking guidance on what it took to be a great leader, a successful manager and a great person.
One day, I was sitting in my boss’s office and my eyes happened to notice an unusual poster hanging on the wall. The title caught my attention: "A Short Course in Human Relations". Here’s what the poster read:

A Short Course in Human Relations

The 6 most important words:
"I admit I made a mistake."
The 5 most important words:
"You did a great job!" The 4 most important words:
"What do you think?"
The 3 most important words:
"If you please …"
The 2 most important words:
"Thank you."
The 1 most important word:
The 1 least important word:

Staring at the poster for many minutes, noticing how the word "you" appears by positive and kind traits, and the word "I" is associated with negative behavior, the intense concentration was suddenly broken by the sound of my boss’s voice. "That’s not the entire course, you know." "Really?", I said. "What do you mean?" "Well, there is one more: The seven most important words— don’t know, but I’ll find out. Understanding what you don’t know and admitting it is just as essential as the rest of the character parts of a good person. "This is the complete short course in human relations", he said.

I quickly wrote the "complete" short course down on my notepad and read it over and over again. The words sang to me and were slowly absorbed inside. The essence of this short course—the keys to being a selfless, human, caring, kind, giving, respectful, trustworthy, humble and effective leader, manager and person.

Throughout life’s journey, these lessons have never been forgotten—because of their utter simplicity, directness and total truth. Only 29 words, but one of the best human behavior lessons I ever got.

In a world of too much self-absorption and self-centeredness, people often think they are the center of the universe. They become so wrapped up in their own world and issues of mundane life, that people tend to forget about others and their struggles. The little words "me" or "I" become very important and too little attention is given to "you." People are certain that somehow everything revolves or should revolve around themselves.
One of the ways to overcome this is by strengthening our faith, our connection with our Heavenly Father. By increasing this bond, we acquire valuable traits of goodness, care, respect, sensitivity and love to others. Life suddenly becomes more meaningful and joyful. There is nothing more miserable than living only for yourself lacking empathy and less concern for the unfortunate. We need to switch our focus from what we want, to what the Almighty wants from us. We need to think less about "me" and more about "you," thus allowing to fill the world with plenty, unity and peace.

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May 11, 2021   

Springtime, A Time To Smile

A lot has happened in the past month. Many celebrations and time honored traditions have been kept. From Passover, through Easter and Ramadan, to Israel Independence Day and United Jerusalem Day. Americans of all religions should be grateful that we have religious freedom in our great nation and can celebrate many joyous occasions.

This has been a fun, meaningful time of renewal, revitalization and freedom, and spirituality is all around us. We have been able to see the bright side of life, when more and more people are going out and trying to stay happy and positive during these hopefully soon post-pandemic times. So let us look at what HAPPINESS is about.

Let’s begin with a quote from The American Heart Association. “Laughter and JOY and Kindness are the HERBS to Gladden the Heart and Delight the Soul.” During the year we recognize World Smile Day. This day is dedicated to good works and good cheer. The theme is: “Do an Act of Kindness. Help one person smile.” The symbol for the day is the “smiley face” icon which was created by Harvey Ball of Worcester, MA, in 1963.

Isn’t it also interesting to remember that a frown is simply an upside down smile? In fact, the thought alone makes you smile, doesn’t it? Don’t you just love a great big belly laugh, the kind where you laugh so hard that your sides ache. We all do. In fact, there is nothing so contagious as a good laugh. Just watch how much it spreads with a group of children. They have playful spirits that are drawn to the funny, and they are not afraid to let their giggles be heard.

In reality, laughter really is important for all of us no matter our age—it’s good medicine. Research studies show that laughing stimulates breathing and circulation, boosts the immune system and helps reduce pain. Our sages too are full of advice and quotes, about how laughter lifts the spirit and improves our mood. So let’s make a conscious effort t keep a smile on our face and allow ourselves to laugh freely and frequently.

Moreover, a fascinating article entitled “SMILE! It could make you happier” appeared in Scientific American Magazine. Making an emotional face or suppressing one influences your feelings. The article mentions that “In 1872, Charles Darwin, the famous evolutionist, first proposed the idea that emotional responses influence our feelings. Additionally, the esteemed 19th century psychologist William James; went so far as to assert that “if a person does not express an emotion, he has not felt it at all.” The article concludes that our faces do seem to communicate our state of mind not only to others, but to ourselves.

Let’s look at the field of art history. There are plenty of paintings of people with smiles that are analyzed and enjoyed by viewers and lovers of art. Perhaps one of the most famous smiles ever painted and studied is of the Mona Lisa, by Leonardo DaVinci. Who doesn’t note her mysterious, captivating smile?

One of my favorite books is called Smiling Wisdom: Pearls of Jewish/Israeli Wisdom & Humor by Ephraim Rudensky, filled with notes and quotes, sayings and stories. In the book, he quotes Max Nordau, philosopher and renowned leader as saying, “Those who have laughed together and cried together are no longer strangers.” A very true statement. In the Book of Genesis, we learn about our biblical matriarch, Sarah, who was childless, then an angel appeared to her, and told her she would have a child born in her old age, in her 90’s.. and what did she do? Sarah laughed. Yes, and what was the name of the son, born to Sarah and Abraham? He was called Isaac, his name meaning what? Yes…laughter.

Laughter is holy. It opens our hearts. It allows love and friendship to fill us. There is a Yiddish proverb, “What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul.” May we all be blessed with health, prosperity and peace, and may we all be blessed with many smiling faces, laughter and happy news.

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March 23, 2021   

Passover And Spiritual Cleaning

On March 27, 2021, Saturday evening, Jewish people globally will begin celebrating the oldest continually practiced ritual to retell what is arguably the best known of all stories, to partake in the most widely practiced Jewish holiday—Passover: The festival of freedom. This is the time that reflects the story in the Bible how the Almighty passed over the doors of each slave’s family and from that point onward it’s a well-known story of exodus. Even though the Jewish people throughout millennia suffered tremendous persecution and more, the boundless hope, the light at the end of the tunnel was the connection and the remembrance of the great ancient exodus from Egypt.

In preparation for this holiday, Jewish households are occupied with an incredible amount of cleaning. Often, we put so much of our focus into the quality of the cleaning in order to not have chametz (leavened bread) on Passover, that we forget to think about the spiritual meaning of these cleaning actions. Similarly, when we eat matzah during the week of Passover our thoughts are often on digestion–or lack thereof–rather than on the spiritual meaning of matzah.

The spiritual meanings of chametz and matzah are actually the flip-sides of the very same Jewish Kabbalah mystical teaching. The characteristic of chametz is that it rises (think of dough rising into bread or cakes). According to the Kabbalah, rising symbolizes pride, while matzah, which is flat, symbolizes humility. Thus, the process of getting rid of our chametz is not just about getting rid of physical chametz. It is about ridding ourselves of our "spiritual chametz"—the negativity we build up in our lives that we need to find a way to let go of so we can embrace what is truly important.

This year, like on every year, the conclusion of the eve of Passover celebration has the Haggadah statement: “This year we are slaves, next year we’ll be free.” For us, this year is a time that we cannot physically be with the family and friends. Some of us join Zoom, virtual, while others just miss being together with the family. Thus, this year we should make an arduous effort to get rid of our negative approach to life, sweep it away, have more gratitude, appreciation and joy.

May we have a meaningful Passover evening filled with positivity, light and true freedom, and may we continue our good deeds in striving to repair the world so that next year all people will be able to be together and live in real safety, peace and harmony. Happy and healthy Passover.

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