Is Coronavirus Real?

Is Coronavirus real? The short answer is yes. 

How do I know that?  Because people are getting sick and some (a small percentage) are dying.

We hear that the media is hyping things up.  People are going crazy and stocking up on water and toilet paper (unhelpful panic). 

Colleagues of mine received strong emails from members, urging them to shut down services, Purim and everything, because coronavirus is real. 

True, coronavirus is real, but is Purim, Torah reading and Judaism real too?

Coronavirus and Judaism actually have a lot in common.  You can't see coronavirus.  It travels invisibly through tiny particles in the air.  If someone coughs in a room and walks away, the virus can still be in the air for 60 seconds, and infect someone who breathes it in.  Same thing with touching surfaces, since it travels incognito.  (This is why washing hands and being careful with hygiene is so important). 

Even someone who is infected with the real virus can be symptom free for up to 14 days, but ev…

What Purim Means to Me

Earlier this week, I had a few conversations that made me realize something so sad:  many people think that Purim is a childish holiday!  The reason for this is likely because of costume parties as well as some Israeli Purim songs in the diminutive.

The truth is that Purim is one of the most meaningful holidays in the Jewish calendar!  The Talmud teaches that all holidays will be dim when the Moshiach comes, all besides for Purim.  The Bible name for Yom Kippur is "Yom Hakippurim" which can be translated as "The day like Purim."  In other words, Purim is so powerful, that Yom Kippur is only "like Purim!"  

If you get into the meat and potatoes of the holiday, it's even more anticlimactic.  Unlike Passover, when we left Egypt in style, with their country destroyed and drowned.  On Chanukah, we destroyed the Greek Army and one jug of oil lasted for 8 days.

What is the story of Purim?  We were citizens of Persia, the king and his adviser designated a day to…

Diffusion of the Rebbe

This week is a big week for Chabad.  Wednesday marks 70 years since the Rebbe became Rebbe. 
Many people wonder why we're celebrating the day on which the Rebbe took over leadership of Chabad if he passed away 26 years ago.  People also wonder why Chabad hasn't appointed a new Rebbe.

The simple answer to the second question is because his shoes can't be filled.  There's a deeper answer though, which answers the first question too.

Even before officially becoming Rebbe, he would give the honor of officiating weddings with certain conditions.  About 12 years into his leadership, he officially stopped, due to lack of time.  At the same time, he encouraged people to have their wedding ceremony outside of his office, would listen in on occasion, and assured couples that this was "the same" as him performing the wedding. 

About 20 years later, he stopped giving private audiences (yechidus), again because of time constraints, but started giving out dollars on Sundays a…

Faith vs. Trust by Rabbi Wagner

R’ Shmuel Strashun, the ReSHaSH, was a talmid chochom as well as a man of means, who is known for his commentary on gemoro. He lived in Vilna, where he spent his time studying Torah and giving shiurim, while his wife ran their business ventures which were very successful. Once, he had a debate with R’ Yisroel Salanter, who was his contemporary. The argued about bitachon, and, specifically, whether one may have bitachon about something that is not a necessity but merely a luxury. The ReSHaSH argued that if something is needed, then you are justified in trusting in Hashem to provide you with it. But if you don’t need something, then what basis can you possibly have to expect, let alone be certain, that Hashem will give it to you. R’ Yisroel Salanter, however, disagreed. He insisted that if you trust in Hashem, He will come through for you, and there are no limitations on what you may have bitochon for. They each tried to support their position, but were unable to reach a resolution. Finall…

A thought on Politics

I can feel already that 2020 is going to be a major year for Chabad of Temecula.  We're making progress on the property and hope to have more to share in around a month, but be sure that lots is happening behind the scenes. 

2020 will also be an election year, and if we don't have enough politics in our lives already, we can look forward to much more this year. 

Chabad stays out of politics.  Not that we don't have personal opinions or that the issues aren't important, but so many other good organizations are involved in politics and our work transcends political issues or parties.

Many religious organizations are heavily involved in politics, precisely because the issues are so important.  People invoke "Jewish values" "Christian values" or any other religious or moral value into the conversation to argue why their political views are correct. 

What are these "Jewish or other values" that are being attributed to their political party?  If y…

How much do you love G-d?

A year or so ago, I was at at another Chabad for a morning service and noticed a Jew standing with a tallis praying.  I approached him and offered to put on tefillin with him.

He looked at me, and with a heavy Israeli accent responded, "I only put on tefillin at the Western Wall.  You have no clue how close of a relationship I have with G-d, and He doesn't need my tefillin."

Given the sincerity of his prayers, I was kind of taken about with his rejection, especially since I could tell from his answer that he wanted me to respond to him (some Israelis are like that.  They just want to see how you'll respond).

I said to him, "Are you married?"

"I was" he said.  "Divorced now."

"In that case" I said, "you know at least kind of what marriage is about."

"Imagine if your wife asked you to take out the trash, and you responded by explaining her how your love transcends taking out the trash for her, and she doesn't really …

How Natanya's Pen Pal Became Homeless on Tisha B'Av

As a young child in school, I remember being taught about Tisha B'Av, as the day that both temples were destroyed.

As I grew, I learned that more sad things happened on that day.  While the Jews were in the desert, on the doorstep of Israel, they complained about not wanting the holy land.  G-d responded with a decree that they would wander for 40 years in the desert, until that complete generation died.  This too happened on Tisha B'Av.

Of course, the first Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonians on that day.  About 500 years later, the second Temple was destroyed by the Romans on the same day.  The ruins of the outer wall of that temple are what people call "The Western Wall." 

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue.  In that same year, Queen Isabella of Spain expelled all Jews who refused to convert from her country.  Which day did that happen?  You guessed it. 

On August 1, 1914, Germany declared war on Russia.  This was the beginning of WWI, WWII and …