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Rabbi Fishel's Blog

Prayers for Israel

This week, our brothers and sisters in Israel once again experienced what it means to live under the fear of war. Some communities in Northern Israel were woken up at 2:00 am by the sounds of missile blasts. There is also concern about the Gaza border. The country is on high alert and the army is mobilize.

This is good time to ‘check in’ to Shul on Shabbat - and touch base with the ‘commander’. Even if you don't use your Tefillin regularly, I encourage you to don them on a weekday during this period; the Tefillin represent our Jewish uniform and protective gear. Women and girls don't miss your Shabbat candles today, or any Friday, to add much needed light, during this challenging period.

Let us continue to stand strong with Israel and stand proud of Israel! Let us continue to be vigilant, resolute, and united in our love and support for Israel!  Whether by visiting the country, extending financial support for Israeli causes, speaking out on Israel’s behalf, or performing “mitzvot” - acts of goodness and kindness - to provide Eretz Yisrael with vital spiritual fortification; let us not lose sight of the fact that what we do here makes a difference there! For this perspective and course of action will serve to reinforce one of the most immutable and unshakable truths of human history - namely, that “AM YISROEL CHAI!”  - THE NATION OF ISRAEL LIVES - yesterday, today, always and forever!

A Mother's Love Goes Both Ways

 

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As we celebrate Mothers’ Day this week, my thoughts focus even more strongly on the incredible women to whom I owe so much.

A Mother’s Love Goes Both Ways -
 
We all know where we’d be without mothers and most of us realize by the second, minute, hour, day, week, month, and year just how much we owe to those biological and maternal figures who not only gave us life but continued to guide and influence us in positive ways as we matured. For some, the role never quits, even though we may be remiss in expressing to them how we feel as often as we should.
 
There is a poem that expresses it perfectly: ‘When You Thought I Wasn’t Looking' tells how each little caring thing that mothers do is noticed, even though the child may not acknowledge it at the time, and that ranges from the encouragement one feels when school art is hung on the refrigerator to the silent tears and smiles that mark each passing event. My own mother had a great impact on my life with her happy and joyful attitude, and it continues to this day.
 
In the same way, although she might think we don’t notice, it would be next to impossible not to see how Ettie is truly unbelievable with the strength she quietly exhibits while directing and supporting the Preschool, Chabad, our children and the community.
 
Mothers’ Day is just an annual reminder of the gratitude we should feel often for the loving foundation given to us by those maternal figures. May we always recognize it as a ‘two-way street’ and remember to show our love and appreciation in return.

 

Count the Days and Make Them Count

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Count the Days and Make Them Count

During the period from Passover to the holiday of Shavuot we have a unique Mitzvah: to count the omer. At the start of each 24 -hour period at night we say a special blessing, thanking G-d for having us count the days, and then state the number of the day, starting with #1 all the way to day #49. Other Mitzvot are typically more action-oriented and easily understood, like eating matzah and blowing the shofar. But what is the meaning behind what seems to be a time-counting exercise? 

In Psalm 90, King David writes, "Teach us to number our days so we can acquire a heart of wisdom." When we realize that our days are numbered and recognize that life has a limit, we begin living fully and freely. When we recognize our own mortality, we become less concerned with meaningless annoyances. We forgive more, we love more, we fill every moment with love and with joy.

Every single mitzvah, custom and tradition we are instructed to perform is meant to evoke an inner discovery within us. Each one is meant to elevate the spiritual or moral quality of our lives, or to teach us a valuable lesson on how to go about living our lives.

Jack Schwartz had a curious non- Jewish co-worker who constantly asked him about Judaism. Jack decided to invite him to his nephew’s Bar Mitzvah, to witness a Jewish service and ceremony firsthand in a synagogue. The guest sat there in Shul on a Saturday, totally intrigued by everything he saw.

Every other minute, he asked Jack for the reason and explanation behind each action, from wrapping a Tallis around oneself to covering one’s eyes while reciting the Shema, to the lifting of the Torah for all to see. In each instance, Jack explained everything as well as he could.

Then the Rabbi stood at the lectern to deliver the sermon. Opening his Chumash (Bible), he removed his watch and placed it gently at one side of the Chumash, so that he could keep an eye on the time.

“What does that mean?” his friend asked.

Jack responded: “That, my friend, doesn’t mean a darn thing!”

Time is relative. Of course, a day is never more than 24 hours; an hour is never more than 60 minutes and a minute is never more than 60 seconds. But, as the Rebbe of blessed memory, would always say: “Time is like a vessel which is highly elastic - with an infinite absorptive capacity - It has the power to expand or contract, depending on how much, or how little, is put into the vessel.”

We can take that same unit of time, those same 24 hours, and fill it with incredible content, with so much accomplishment and achievement that it has an impact for all eternity, or we can squander it completely, shrinking it into nothingness, so that it fades away as if it never happened. It is up to us.

The message of counting the Omer is: “Take it one day at a time,” but make the most of each and every one of those days. Count the day and make the day count

 

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