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 …

Would you like to become orthodox?

Would you like to become orthodox?  Okay, okay, we don't have to go there.  At the very least, I won't be the one to tell you not to.  At the same time, we all have change waiting to happen that seem as impossible and ridiculous as becoming orthodox.  The socially awkward might expect their family to accept them as such, since "it's who I am."  To change this would be selling my soul.  I'll write more about this next week, but for now I want to share how impossible change happens. 

Anyone who has made life changing decisions can look back and pinpoint three stages in the change.  The first stage is the build up.  Let's use the example of someone with a debt addiction.  They could have 50 years of suffering from their problems, and still bang their head against the wall.  In this stage, there's lots of back and forth.  I want to change, but I don't really want to change.  Maybe I can manage my suffering with minimal change etc.

The second stage is t…

Do you like getting sick?

Do you ever get a cold? How about back pain? Do you like being ill?  Of course not! At least mostly.

We don't talk about it much, but being sick has its benefits. You might get extra pampering, take it easy, relax, skip washing the dishes, mopping the floor, putting the kids to bed, and may even skip work!

While 99% of me doesn’t like being sick, there is that quiet little 1% that is okay with being sick, even if I won’t admit it to anyone.

The same is true for all problems that we have in life, like marriage, money, children, or moral and religious problems. Relationship problems are really just character flaws and blind spots which only become problematic once you're in a relationship or business.

All these problems give the benefit of not being forced to work on our blind spots. If we can accept a sub-par relationships or financial situations, we won’t have to deal with our darkest sides!

In other words, while all of our problems, called golus (exile) are overall unwanted, there…

Why the Rebbe is alive and what he's waiting for...

Tomorrow is the 25 year anniversary of the Rebbe's passing.  The reality that Chabad has grown exponentially since his passing is unlikely, and defied the world's predictions.  To this day, many people ask why no one has replaced the Rebbe.  The obvious answer is because no one can.  But if he was a such a special man, and now he's gone, how do you explain the trajectory?  Chabad is arguably the largest and most influential Jewish movement in the world, and it continues to grow without a leader?

In my opinion, the first part of the answer is about the Rebbe himself.  On the one hand, while he has passed, he's not gone like virtually every other celebrity.  There may still be millions of Elvis Presley fans today, but Elvis is gone.  Contrast this to the 100,000 people who will be visiting the Rebbe's grave this weekend to pray and request blessings.  I am the Rebbe's employee, and I send a report every month of what I've done.  The Rebbe has his way of respon…

No One Should Be a Slave Forever

In a world bombarding us with advertisements, media & information, it's easy to miss important things.  This is why I write provocative subject lines and titles to my blog.  To catch people's attention.

Last week, I attempted to communicate a deep idea about how the Torah concept of slavery can be applied in today's day and age.  To read the email, click here.  

I'd like to share some of the feedback I received.  Most of it was positive, but one person requested clarification, and another one felt it was offensive.  

Here is one of the responses, "That is a brilliant message, Rabbi! Unconventional on its face but very poignant when your point is understood. It mirrors the experience of my son. His 10 year addiction was abruptly ended through “slavery” in the form of the Salvation Army’s 6 month residential Adult Recovery Program. It probably saved his life and definitely turned his life around. Clean and sober for about 10 years now."  

Another fellow respond…

I think We Should Re-introduce Slavery

As an American, the idea that Torah condones slavery is pretty unsettling.  To make matters worse, we believe that when Moshiach comes, we'll be reverting to all the rules of Torah.  How could it be that after so many centuries of progress, we're waiting for the day we can return to the dark ages and re-institute slavery?  

The answer must be that the ugly slavery and segregation we're taught about in school has nothing to do with the Torah slavery. 

After years of thinking about it, I think I finally have an answer, and it was inspired by a druggie. 

I've had the opportunity to help quite a few addicts and their families.  It's so sad to see beautiful people, who genuinely want to change and straighten their lives out, but simply cannot help themselves.  Drug rehabs have pathetically low success rates, and their failure might just be in that their clients are "free" citizens.  Maybe, the Torah's kind of slavery could solve their problems!

First of all,…