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Is cheating on a test against the Torah?

Yesterday in our class, an interesting discussion came up.  A boy, who is now religious, called me while at school a little over a year ago, while he was becoming more religious.  He wanted to know if it's against the Torah to cheat on a test.

Immediately, people were already up in arms, ready to stone the boy who asked the question (good thing they don't know who he is).

I challenged them, and why is it wrong to cheat on a test?  You see, there are two important things to realize here:  Number one, is that we tend to associate anything we feel good about on G-d, and anything we dislike must be ungodly.  Ever hear, "cleanliness is G-dliness?"  Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against a clean house, but who decided that it's G-dliness? The temple in Jerusalem wasn't a spotless palace.  It was an extremely busy place with animals coming in and out etc.  Was that ungodly?

In our society, cheating is taboo, so is it against the Torah?  It must be!  Why?  Becau…

It's all about you

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A fellow called me up last week and wanted to talk.  A couple months ago, he resigned from a very well paying job for ethical reasons.  Since then, he's been having a hard time getting hired again, and was starting to get angry at G-d.  Why should he be punished for doing the right thing?  He wanted to give G-d a chance, but didn't think that there was really anything that I could say to relieve him of this anger.  

It's really tough getting involved in emotionally charged dilemmas.  On the one hand, it's tempting to talk logic, but that is difficult to balance with true empathy for their hard times.  

After saying just that, I went on to explain the difference between "refining" and "tests."  Refining is what we spend most of our time doing.  Refining is another way to say "making the world a better place."  The useful things that we do in work refine the world, as do the mitzvahs that we do refine the world.  The purpose of "refining&…

Why do they hate us?

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Why do they hate us?
Please allow me to preface with some of my personal feelings about this new era we're in.The knee-jerk reaction is to reinforce whatever convictions we already have.If we've been active politically, we resolve to increase our political activism.If we feel strongly about debating neo-nazis, we'll increase that.If we feel strongly about guns, we increase our gun activism.If we think the answer is dialogue and understanding, we'll increase our cultural understanding activism.
While some of these causes are worthy, I'd like to recommend something different.G-d gives us these tragedies in order for us to grow.The way to grow is by broadening our horizons and opening our eyes to things that are new.We don't need tragedies just to increase what we've already been doing.Something novel should be born from it.
Now, "why do they hate us"?For the same reason that many of them love us!It has nothing to do with what we do.It's who we are.…

Cliff Notes on Achieving Wealth

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Here are the cliff notes with some additions:While health, relationships and happiness are definitely more important than wealth, they are not wealth, in the material, literal sense.The definition of "wealth" is money that you don't need for your own needs.  Hence a penny that you don't need is a penny of wealth, just like $100 or $1M that you don't need, is that amount of wealth.  Whether it's $1, $100 or $1,000,000, it is qualitatively the same thing.  Money that you don't need.On the one hand, Hashem guarantees us that we'll always have what we need to live.  On the other hand, we are not entitled to wealth.Getting excited or anxious about amassing wealth is futile, as it's not really for you anyways.  Your entire life savings might just be destined to support your wife's future husband, stepchild, or your enemy! Torah doesn't share any magic tricks to make a successful business, but it does advise us how to achieve wealth.The way to ac…

Passover on Purim

The shulchan oruch (Jewish rule book) says that we should start studying about Passover 30 days before the holiday.  If you count the days on a calendar, you'll find that 30 days before Passover is Purim day.  

Why would the rabbis tell us to study about Passover in the middle of the Purim celebration?   

Here's a possible answer:  

In a way, Pesach is the completion of the Purim holiday.  It's kind of like life.  I know that I'm a good guy, at least 98 or 99%.  There's that one or two percent though, that haunts me.  My blind spot is that weak point to bring me down and ruin the most important things in my life.  

For some people it is an addiction, depression, money habits, victim-hood, lack of empathy, narcissism or a million other things.  They almost always jeopardize or ruin the relationships that are most important to us.  This is called a personal exile or Egypt (מצרים).  I know what mine is.  Do you know yours?  

The purpose of life is to shake these limitation…

#Metoo inspires rabbi to come out as abuse victim

Did you hear about the big news last week?  A Chabad rabbi in Utah became possibly the first orthodox rabbi to come out in public about the sexual abuse he went through as a child from his nanny.  I won't go through the details, but you can read the article here.  I didn't see it until after I sent my email last Friday, so I thought to add my commentary today.

Many people were shocked that someone could be so successful and charismatic while living the double life of pain, guilt & shame. I'm not surprised by this at all.  

The Talmud tells us the stats.  "A majority of the population (>50%) struggle with stealing, a minority (<50%) struggle with adultery and everyone struggles with gossip.

The stats are that 20% of all women have been abused, although it's a very hard number to get accurate because of its sensitivity.

With these kinds of numbers, survivors have got to be all across the spectrum.

Almost 20 years after the abuse started and ten years after it s…

Are you worthy of owning money?

Are you worthy of owning money?  

So many people struggle to pay their bills month to month and don't have a penny to their name.  Why is that?  Is there a shortage of money?  Are they splurging everything on frivolities?

The Talmud and other Jewish sources have some insight that answered the question for me.  It really boils down to the very meaning of "wealth."  How would you define the word?  Does it mean health, or enough money to buy whatever you want?  Maybe it means a nice house or a fancy car?

The Torah teaches that our charity should "fill the lack of the poor person".  The Talmud explains that on the one hand, we should give them enough to live the lifestyle they're used to.  "Even a horse to ride on and servants to wait on them."  On the other hand, charity only needs to fill the lack, not make them rich.

Wait one second.  If a horse to ride on (the biblical equivalent of a Lexus) and servants to wait on them isn't wealth, what is? 

The …