Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Living With and Living Without

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, April 26, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3,7

  1. ELEAZAR (A MAN) OF BERTOTHA SAID: GIVE UNTO HIM OF THAT WHICH IS HIS, FOR THOU AND WHAT THOU HAST ARE HIS; EVEN SO [WE FIND IT EXPRESSED] IN [THE CASE OF] DAVID, [WHEN] HE SAID: FOR ALL THINGS COME OF THEE, AND OF THINE OWN HAVE WE GIVEN THEE.

 

In a very famous midrash, Abraham smashes his father’s idols. When Terach, Abraham’s father returns to see the broken idols, young Abraham explains they were fighting over food and they destroyed themselves. In astonishment Terach responds incredulously about the idols capacity for such behavior.

 

This Mishna seems to pose a similar dilemma. Does God want our material possessions? I think not. Is this a statement about charity? Possibly.  More to the point, our Mishna seems to be posing the challenge of attachment. This Mishna asks, to what are you truly attached?  What can you live without. What are those things that if they were taken tomorrow would make life unbearable and what are those things that are expendable?

 

I imagine that most any material possession pales in comparison to other necessities in life. Our midrash places before us this hypothetical question. If tomorrow all your material acquisitions were taken, what would you be left with? Would you have the love of family, the concerns of friends, the respect of colleagues?

 

  

Meaningful Conversation

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, April 19, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3.6 

HALAFTA OF KEFAR HANANIA SAID: [WHEN THERE ARE] TEN SITTING TOGETHER AND OCCUPYING THEMSELVES WITH TORAH, THE SHECHINAH ABIDES AMONG THEM.

People are different in different settings.  There are some who feel completely comfortable making small talk with a few friends. There are some who prefer the large group over intimate conversation. Yet every one of these circumstances center on what is being said. 

When the impulse is to talk of the regular everyday, mundane topics, like sports, weather and career, seize the moment to speak of God, Torah and Israel.  By giving us the subject matter to discuss we take the first step to being comfortable in our surroundings.

The young man or woman preparing for a date wonders what they will talk about over dinner.  The couple getting ready to go to a dinner party thinks about the varied topics that will bantered about at the table. Our Mishna offers the suggestion that values, morals and God’s word might be a good topic of conversation.    

 

  

Making Small Jobs Important

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3.5

NEHUNIA B. HAKKANAH SAID: WHOEVER TAKES UPON HIMSELF THE YOKE OF THE TORAH, THEY REMOVE FROM HIM THE YOKE OF GOVERNMENT AND THE YOKE OF WORLDLY CONCERNS, AND WHOEVER BREAKS OFF FROM HIMSELF THE YOKE OF THE TORAH, THEY PLACE UPON HIM THE YOKE OF GOVERNMENT AND THE YOKE OF WORLDLY CONCERNS.

Sometimes we find ourselves bogged down in tasks we dislike doing. If, however, we step back for a moment and recognize why we are doing this particular activity, we usually continue doing that very chore.  If we can remember why we do what we do, menial jobs seems less so.

Every person is born with a divine directive.  As we make our way through life we must remember we are in service of God no matter how tedious the assignment.  Looking back at the varied accomplishments in one’s life gives us the support necessary to continue ahead.  Seeing what we have been able to endure in the past, gives us the strength to push onward.   Recalling that we are all placed here with a purpose, even if we have yet to define it exactly, gives us the courage to endure the setbacks life often brings.

 

We are starting a new group called “Shul Stitchers.” If you knit or crochet please join us

April 26th at 1:00 pm for our kick off meeting.  Yarn provided!!