Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
All You Have to do is Want It
Rabbi Jay M. SteinMonday, August 21, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
See, I set before you blessing and curse. (Deuteronomy 11:26)
We have learned that different people absorb information in different ways - some by seeing , some by hearing, some by touching. Those Israelites who were not persuaded by hearing God's commandments at Sinai, or by hearing Moses' exhortations , are asked to see the difference that following God's ways can make in one's life. (Etz Hayim page 1061)
Last year I had the privilege of teaching in our Religious school. It was the first time in many years I had a regular teaching assignment in a supplementary school. I had forgotten the challenges associated with teaching children after they had been in school for an entire day or early on a Sunday morning when many of their friends were still sleeping. The obstacles are many.
So many advances have been made in education since my first days in the classroom. We know so much more about how different people learn. In the early days a child might be labeled "disruptive." Today we recognize how the teachers presents the material has a huge impact on a student's ability to learn. However, there still is the issue of motivation.
For some the classroom will never be the setting that works for them. For some it will be the tech shop. For some it will through the internet. For all, the material must speak to them. Once the right fit is found, all is possible.
It is true of our connection to Judaism. We must seek out the place, the content and the people who are best able to help us connect. Our tradition is vast. Within it there is a place for everyone. We must want to participate.
Don't Beat Yourself Up
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, August 10, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
And the Lord shall send panic against them... (Deuteronomy 7:20)
The Lord your God will deliver them up to you, throwing them into utter panic... (7:23)
When I was in high school I played varsity tennis. I wasn't the best but I had tremendous heart. I would not give up on a ball. There were opponents who were better than me, yet I could find a way to win and it usually included them making "unforced errors."
I would hit one more ball back and they would make a silly mistake. A ball they could have put away without another thought became hard for them to hit. They would begin to doubt themselves and they would panic. Rarely did I beat my rival. More often they beat themselves.
The same is true in life. We get down on ourselves. We beat ourselves up. Our enemies don't need to beat us because we get there first. The next time a negative thought enters you mind, check to see if there is basis for it. Otherwise you are not your best self.
Sharon and I look forward to celebrating with you this Shabbat at our Auf Ruf. We feel so blessed to be part of this loving community.
Purposeful Living is Difficult to Achieve
Rabbi Jay M. SteinFriday, August 4, 2017 at 12:00:00 am
"When the Lord brings you into the land the He swore to your fathers...to assign to you -great and flourishing cities that you did not build." (Deuteronomy 6:10)
One of the debates ongoing in our country right now is about "entitlement programs." The nomenclature indicates the thrust of the discussion. When we speak of entitlements, we are referring to Medicaid, Medicare, food assistance and social security. We are not usually referencing education, at least through high school, though we could make an argument it should be included.
The general argument is as follows. As a society we have an obligation to care for those in need. Opposing that idea is if we provide those basic needs there will be people who become complacent, won't seek to work and will simply be a drain on those who are paying more than their fair share. Both arguments have merit.
According to our tradition we are required to help those in need. According to empirical evidence, there are going to be people who take advantage of the system as it is currently structured.
Already, in the Torah we find a fear that entitlement may lead to complacency. In Moses last days he is afraid the people once they are comfortable will no longer make the effort to live a principled life.
Making a living is difficult. Making ends meet can be a struggle. Leading a life of values is sometimes inconvenient. However, like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a hard day's work, so too, living a life of purpose and meaning brings its own rewards.