Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein
Blessings - Knowing the Difference
Rabbi Jay M. SteinWednesday, April 10, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
Knowing the Difference
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה' אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם. אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לַשּכְוִי בִינָה לְהַבְחִין בֵּין יום וּבֵין לָיְלָה
Baruch ata Adonai eloheinu melech haolam asher natan la’sechvi vinah l’havchin bein yom u׳vein lilah.
Praised are You Master our God Sovereign of the universe who has given the rooster the ability to discern between day and night.
This bracha (blessing) is the first blessing of a grouping a brachot (plural for bracha) that is recited early on the morning prayers. It was originally recited when one woke, at the very first moment of consciousness. Even before opening one’s eyes we begin to think. Some will wonder, what time is it? If we are awakened by an alarm we might know without looking at the clock, but if not, then we might struggle to know. Some will wonder what day of the week it is. Some will think about what they will wear. Some will do a body check to assess what hurts and what doesn’t. Some will think about their daily schedule. Traffic, weather will be on others’ mind.
At its core, this bracha is about being able to choose and at the heart of being able to choose is the ability to differentiate. At first blush, this bracha thanks God for giving us the ability to know if it is time to get up and begin our day or to lay in bed and sleep a little longer. However, if the bracha is also about the forces of light and the forces of darkness, this bracha is then, additionally, about choosing between good and bad.
Daily we are confronting by choices. May this bracha awaken within us the ability to choose wisely, fully aware of the decisions we are making and their potential consequences.
Owning What We Say and What We Do
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, March 21, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 6:10
FIVE POSSESSIONS HAS THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE, [SPECIFICALLY] DECLARED HIS OWN IN HIS WORLD, AND THESE THEY ARE: THE TORAH, ONE POSSESSION, THE SANCTUARY, ONE [OTHER] POSSESSION, HEAVEN AND EARTH, ONE [MORE] POSSESSION, ABRAHAM, ONE [OTHER] POSSESSION, ISRAEL, ONE [MORE] POSSESSION.
In the preschool , you might find, on a rare occasion, one child playing with a toy and another child will want a turn. The response from the first child long before their language has fully developed is, ”mine.” It is an indication the toy in their possession is theirs and they have no intention of sharing. Sharing is difficult. As we grow older we learn to do it, because it may not come naturally to us all.
Certainly, as we grow in our accomplishments we grow to “own” them as well. It is one of the ways we identify with our actions. To own something is to appreciate it. Though the phrase seems at odd with our sensibilities, the Mishna is teaching ownership is also connection and responsibility. God is connected to our world. God is committed to an ongoing, evolving relationship with humanity as seen through many examples before us.
As we look to the those things we own, can we say the same we are responsible for it? Accountable for it? Is this true of what we say as much as material possessions?
Your Highest Self
Rabbi Jay M. SteinThursday, March 14, 2019 at 12:00:00 am
Mishna Avot 6:9
… R. JOSE B. KISMA SAID: ONCE I WAS WALKING BY THE WAY WHEN A MAN MET ME, AND GAVE ME [THE SALUTATION OF] PEACE’, AND I RETURNED HIM [THE SALUTATION OF] PEACE’. SAID HE TO ME, RABBI, FROM WHAT PLACE ART THOU?’ SAID I TO HIM, ‘FROM A GREAT CITY OF SAGES AND SCRIBES AM I.’ SAID HE TO ME, ‘RABBI, [SHOULD IT BE] THY PLEASURE THAT THOU DWELL WITH US IN OUR PLACE, I WILL GIVE THEE A THOUSAND THOUSAND DENARII OF GOLD, AND PRECIOUS STONES AND PEARLS.’ SAID I TO HIM: ‘IF THOU SHOULDST GIVE ME ALL THE SILVER AND GOLD, PRECIOUS STONES AND PEARLS THAT ARE IN THE WORLD, I WOULD NOT DWELL [ANYWHERE] EXCEPTING IN A PLACE OF TORAH;…
The Rabbis of this Mishna engage in a common hypothetical. If you had all of the money in the world, how would you live your life. Today that hypothetical is most commonly envisioned in retirement. That is, you have enough to live on comfortably what will you do with your time?
Each of us must ask that question. Each of us must ask ourselves is this the life we want to be living? For the rabbis of this Mishna the question is placed in the material world. But for us we must take the lesson one step beyond. We must ask ourselves who are we and are we the person we want to be regardless of socio-economic factors. Are we living our highest self? What does your highest self look like? Is that really being affected by your finances?