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    Which Will We Choose?

    6. January, 2014BlogComments are off

    For many of us, one third of our lives we spend asleep. Just think of it! If we are 21 years old, for seven years we have slept. If we are sixty-three years old, we have been asleep for twenty-one years.

    For some of us, another third of our lives is spent earning a living (although, in today’s economy many of us work way beyond an eight hour day), trying to sustain our families. Two thirds of our lives are basically spent in ways that are indistinguishable from the ways of the rest of the animal kingdom. We share with our fellow beasts the need for food, rest and shelter. Our search may be more complicated than theirs, but the bottom line is the same.

    There is no basic difference save one. The animal’s search takes all of his time and so it was with primitive mankind who spent his every waking moment looking for something to eat and a safe place to live.

    We can and do all of that and still have one-third of our lives left over. It is what we choose to do with that leftover third that determines whether or not our lives shall have meaning. The choice is ours and no one else’s!

    About a thousand years ago, in a distant land a wise old man, known for his wisdom was tested by three youngsters who were determined to prove that they could force the wise man into making a wrong decision. One of the youngsters captured a tiny humming bird and held it behind his back.

    Approaching the old man, the youngster shouted out sneeringly, “Oh wise man, what have I behind my back a live bird or a dead one?” Ah, thought the wise man, if I say, “a dead bird,” the boy would open his hands and let allow the humming bird to fly away. On the other hand, thought the old wise man, if I say, “a living bird,” the boy would close his hand and quickly kill the bird just to prove me wrong. The boy waited impatiently for the wise man to respond and said, “what is the matter, do you not know the answer to this simple question?” The old wise man continued to ponder his response until finally he said, “As you will it, my son, as you will it.”

    The answers to many of our own questions are the same today as it was thousands of years ago. What shall we do with the left over third of our lives? As we will it, so hall it be. Just as the wise man said to the youngster God has said to us “We are the final arbiters of our lives, no one else.”

    The Power of Choice

    6. December, 2013BlogComments are off

    According to our ancient sages, God has given humans the power of choice. It goes without saying that we are shaped by powerful forces well beyond our control; but as humans, we still have the power to make choices in response to many unforeseen events in our lives. We especially have the power to make moral and ethical choices and determine, to a large degree our own fate. In fact, we must make the proper decisions and decide to exercise control over our lives so that we can live in a responsible and sane environment. This is not something that we should do; it is something that we must do.

    Scientists have confirmed that our DNA, our childhood and early social conditions are tremendously powerful influences on how we react in given situations; but can our personal will and determination can be used as our dominant influence? We not only react to circumstances, we create circumstances. The x and y chromosomes determine our eye and hair color, our height, and a multitude of other things in our lives. What it does not control is how we not only look upon each other and the way we treat each other or ourselves. A child, born of alcoholic parents probably has a propensity to become one himself. He has a decision to make pretty early on in his life. He knows that his parents have this affliction; the child determines which road to go down pretty early in life. Is it the road that will lead to addiction, unhappiness and destruction, or is it the road that will lead to productivity and possible happiness?

    Where we grow up determines many things as well. Our food choices, the sports teams we root for, (and in most cases), our political and marriage choices. But what DNA and early childhood influences do not control is how we look upon and treat people and whether we are honest, empathetic, kind, with our friends, family and even strangers. We ourselves decide that.

    There is a story told that exemplifies what I have just been describing.

    It goes like this. A man heard that there was going to be a huge rain storm and in his area, there was going to be flooding. He decided to climb to the roof of his house and wait, feeling that God would take care of him because he was such a strong believer. The rains began and rose treacherously higher, but the man’s faith in God was unwavering. When a rowboat came by and offered to save him, the man said, “No thank you, I have faith that God will save me.” The people in the rowboat pleaded with the man, to no avail. As the waters kept on rising, the man became more concerned and climbed to the top part of his roof, “knowing” that God would save him.

    A little later on a helicopter rescue team came by and dropped him a line, offering to get him to safety. Once again, the man said, “God will save me” Anyone reading this story knows that it has a sad ending as the man drowned because the waters rose so high that they finally swept him away.

    When the man entered heaven and stood before God, he complained; “God, you know that I had such strong faith in You that You would eventually save me. I spent my whole life serving You. Why didn’t You save me?” God replied, “Save you? I sent a boat and then a helicopter to save you. Why didn’t you see My hand in those rescue attempts? You had choices and both times you chose to ignore My hand in the attempts to save you.”

    God has provided us with free will to make choices in our lives. We can either act or remain passive, but both are choices. The man on the roof chose to remain passive and lost his life. We should not be passive participants in our life’s decisions. We have a unique opportunity to make our personal and political lives better. All we need is the will to get involved in either large or small ways.

    We owe it to our family and friends, but most of all, to ourselves to make our own lives as productive as we can in a humanistic and political way (most of us already do so in a monetary way). We certainly have the talent to do so; all we need is the will. We must at least make attempts at being active participants, although the results oftentimes will not necessarily be the ones we desire. As it has often been said, “We can and must try, for Judaism demands no less of us. As it is written in our Torah, in the Book of Deuteronomy 16, 18-19:9, “Justice, justice, justice shall you pursue that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God gives you.”

    Things God Cannot Do Without Us

    7. October, 2013BlogComments are off

    A young man who was depressed by the evil, the suffering, the misery of the world, complained to his rabbi: “That is exactly the reason God put you in this world; to make it a better world. Now go ahead and do your part.”

    In the rabbi’s answer, we come upon a subtle truth that is frequently overlooked. We always talk of our dependence upon God. We seem to forget that God also depends on us. There are so many things he cannot do without us. In a very real way, we are his partner, and not a silent partner either.

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    Bar and Bat Mitzvah Lessons

    30. September, 2013BlogComments are off

    Bar is a Hebrew word that means son, and Bat is the Hebrew word for girl or daughter. Mitzvah is a word that is defined as responsibility or law. These are the words which we refer to as the religious moment in time our teens, who have reached the age of 13, have become Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

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    A Jewish Boycott By Muslims

    8. September, 2013BlogComments are off

    A Jewish Boycott By Muslims

    Some time ago, Iran’s supreme Leader, Grand Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, urged all Muslims to boycott anything and everything that originated with the Jewish people. In response, Meyer Teinkman, a pharmacist listed many, but certainly, not all of the breakthroughs and discoveries in science, literature, medicine and in the receiving of Noble Peace awards that the Jewish people have gotten over the years. These have been our contributions to humanity.

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    Rosh Hashanah Trivia Knowledge

    4. September, 2013BlogComments are off

    Rosh Hashanah Trivia Knowledge

    When Rosh Hashanah Comes Early & Other Calendar Quirks

    Okay, here’s a question for all you trivia buffs out there. When was the last time Rosh Hashanah began as early as September 5th? Give up? Try 1899! That was the year that Queens and Staten Island became part of New York City, the Great Blizzard of 1899 pounded South Florida with snow, and fighting in Afghanistan continued to rage (then it was the British but sadly some things never change). This was also the year when the paperclip and Bayer aspirin were patented, and voting machines were okay’ for federal elections. (more…)

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