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What is "belief in G-d"?

“Do you believe in G-d?” Most people think the answer to this question is either “yes” or “no”. Some people may go back and forth as to what their answer is.  “Yesterday I believed in G-d, but today…” It’s as if belief is something you have to vote on, either check “Yes I believe” or “No, I don’t believe”. If someone believes in G-d while everything is good, but then doesn’t believe in G-d when bad things happen, or vice versa, what does that say about their belief when they were a “believer”? The truth is that belief in G-d is a spectrum.  It’s a muscle, that can be strengthened or weakened. Let me illustrate this with a teaching from the Talmud: “Getting angry is like bowing down to an idol” Anger=Idolatry?!  What does that mean? The answer is very simple:  If a person really believes in a G-d worth believing in, how could they get angry?  Isn’t everything in the hands of G-d?  Doesn’t G-d have my best interest in mind?  Doesn’t G-d have the ability to give me what’s good? Of course,

I Really Mean You!

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The Great Lag Baomer Parade in NY was absolutely fantastic! It was a lot to schlep the whole family, but it was totally worth it. When we returned, I spoke with Ron. He asked about the parade, and I invited him to come with me to NY another time, which he immediately jumped on with excitement. I asked him why he didn’t come with us for Lag Baomer, to which he responded, “I wasn’t sure if I was invited”. I told him that we really wanted to bring a Temecula delegation with us, referencing my email asking the community to join us, and showed him my to-do list, highlighting “bring group” for Lag Baomer. It really was a priority to bring a group with us. It was my intention to call everyone I thought might like to join, but I really am busy and sometimes proactive one on one communication just doesn’t happen, even though I really want it to.  Just like I wrote this email last Wednesday, but got interrupted and only am sending it now… What I want you to know is that whenever I write, “you ar

Lag Baomer In NY

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The Jewish Children’s Pride Parade was an invention of the Rebbe and a brilliant idea that changed the course of post-Holocaust Jewish America. It features the most inspiring Jewish and Torah themed floats, Jewish children marching bands, and a Jewish wonderland. About ten years ago, I begged my father to attend with me and our 3 toddlers. He reluctantly came but was busy doing some work on his phone during the procession.  He thought it would be a regular children’s event, ie boring for adults. But once I tapped his shoulder to asked him to watch the floats and the children, he stood up and watched them march by for hours , with tears streaming down his cheeks. In the early 1950’s the Jewish people were not in great shape.  The American Jews were very few and assimilated.  The European Jewish immigrants were refugees and broken from the Holocaust. In those days, the saying, “S’ iz shver tzu zayn a Yid- it’s hard to be a Jew” was common. Jews were not holding their heads high. They fel

Antisemitism

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It was nice to shut the news off for Pesach, because a lot of negative things have been getting a lot of attention.  Indeed, antisemitism is dominating headlines again. I have been working through my personal feelings as well as  trying to get clarity on the Rebbe’s response. Indeed, the Rebbe’s approach was novel. He didn’t put much into fighting anti-Semitism, and when asked about it, would not take the bait and instead spoke about how all of humanity is really one, saying things like, “All mankind came from Adam so that no one should be able to say I am better than you.” The few times the Rebbe did speak about it, he framed it more as a reality than a virus.   On the one hand he believed that we can’t educate people out of it, that until Moshiach comes and the “wolf lies with the lamb”- metaphorically symbolizing that the nations will dwell with Israel in peace, anti-Semitism will not be rooted out. On the other hand, rooting out the anti-Semites and cancelling them is not really an

A Happy & Kosher Pesach

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Tonight we’ll eat matzah, read the Hagaddah and tell the story of the slavery & exodus from Egypt. We will read, “In every single generation they rise up to destroy us, but G-d saves us from their hands.” I grew up in generation that said “never again”.  It was peaceful, and while I heard stories from my friends parents and grandparents of antisemitism & the Holocaust, I never experienced it myself. It was as if antisemitism was a thing of the past and people became sophisticated enough to move on.   For the past seven months, this line in the Hagaddah has kept popping into my head.  No amounts of marches, monuments, lectures and rallies will rid the world of antisemitism until Moshiach comes.  I’ve come to trust in G-d & the Torah, not the promises of politicians and secularism. On other hand, just because antisemitism isn’t disappearing so fast, it’s not a reason to worry. The second half of the sentence clarifies that while in every generation until Moshiach comes, they

Miracle Alert

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As you know, over forty volunteers have delivered shmurah matzah to over 700 people in 400 homes so every Temecula Jew can celebrate Passover. For years, Michael Brenner has been a star volunteer.  Every holiday, he is the first to sign up to make deliveries.  He has his set route, saved their addresses in his GPS everyone on his route knows him by name. On Tuesday, while en route from delivery three to four, he was hit by a van.  His car rolled over 450 degrees (complete rollover and landed on the drivers side).  It was super scary and unbelievably dangerous. But Michael walked out without a scratch (actually pulled out, because he was trapped inside with the deployed, smoking airbags). This was a miracle. All night we were both thinking about what happened and how it could happen.  Is the sarcastic saying  “no good deed goes unpunished” really true?  Doesn’t the Talmud (Pesachim 8A) teach that “a mitzvah messenger never gets harmed”? The next morning, I brought over a muffin and coff

Pesach, Seder & My Reflections

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Over the past few weeks, I’ve come to a new realization:  I love my job as a shliach. Property development has been (and still is) very exciting.  I really enjoy the adventure of it, and the satisfaction of seeing a vision come true. But it is very consuming from many angles.   And I know that all this construction has taken away from my ability to serve the community (hopefully we’re still keeping up, if not being as proactive as I’d like). This past week it’s become very clear to me that this construction project is a means to an end, and the end is a home for the Jewish community of Temecula.  This campus will give the community the infrastructure to grow, and serve everyone with the right tools. I can’t wait to reach the finish line, so we can get back to putting all our focus where it should be, namely on the community. (It’s interesting to note that a few weeks ago I heard a story about Rabbi Rubin, the shliach to Albany, NY.  In his first years on the job, he would send detailed