Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Sometimes We Must

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, May 11, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Rabbi Akiba explained, "must defile himself" - the priest is not merely permitted but required to take part in the funeral rites for the relatives mentioned. And so the law was decided. (Sotah 3b)

When I began working there were often tasks I disliked doing.  Whether I was a busboy, a paperboy, a stock boy, a waiter etc, there were always things that I preferred not to do and wished someone else would do them.  When I was an assistant rabbi, there were classes, services or visits that I evaded.  However, one of the presidents of a past congregation in which I served once said to me, “Cowboy Up!" Which meant sometimes you just have to do it.  Since that day, I understood some things cannot be avoided and I have tried to embrace the responsibilities even if, initially, I wanted to escape them.

The rabbis, in discussing the responsibilities of the priest with regards to burial of a loved one, teach us this very lesson. Rabbi Ishmael says that a priest can be involved with burial when it relates to his relatives despite the prohibition against a priest coming into contact with the dead.  Rabbi Akiba comments it is not permission that is granted, but rather, it is an obligation. 

I imagine there are many things in our lives we would like to avoid. But once we have done them, we feel better for having been involved. Today, there are many excuses for not attending a life cycle event.  Before we opt out of anything, we might consider how we might feel afterwards.  


You are Half Way There

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

And it shall be a statute for ever unto you: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and shall do no manner of work, the home-born, or the stranger that sojourneth among you. Leviticus 16:29

The weather has turned warm and the commercials for bathing suit season are in full swing.  One commercial for the summer has us ask ourselves if we are willing to show our bodies on the beach.  If not, we should enroll is a gym and get ourselves ready for showing more skin. There is still time to get in shape.

Some of us will embark upon a rigorous workout regime.  Others, weekend warriors, will pull muscles or, at the least, feel extremely sore. Had we decided months ago to get ready, the process would have been easier. But some of us procrastinate and are forced to make up for lost time.

We are just under six months away from Rosh Hashannah; just a little over six months away from Yom Kippur. Half the year is already gone, but don't panic. We still have a few important holidays to celebrate before the High Holidays. Now is a good time to ask ourselves how we are doing on our last New Year's resolutions.  Do you even remember those things on which you decided you would focus?

This week's reading tells us not to give up on last year's resolutions but rather begin to ready ourselves for the coming high Holidays. If we want this year's High Holidays to be meaningful, we should begin now to plan by taking stock of what we want to accomplish this year.  We are half way there. There is plenty of time to make good on promises made, be they promises to family and friends; promises to ourselves and/or promises to God.  Let's arrive at the High Holidays confident that we have worked hard to accomplish great things, be they achievements large or small.


Your Are Your Own Best Advocate

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

“And if a man or a woman have in the skin of their flesh bright spots, even white bright spots; then the priest shall look; and, behold, if the bright spots in the skin of their flesh be of a dull white, it is a tetter, it hath broken out in the skin: he is clean.” (Leviticus 13:38-39) 

Five years ago I developed a pain in my left forefinger.  It wasn’t terrible, but it did hurt. I could swear I felt a bump and it looked a little swollen.  I ignored it for a while until it really started to hurt.  I went to my internist who said it was nothing.   He suggested that if it still bothered me in a month, I should return and he would order x-rays and perhaps an MRI.  A month later I went back and he did a full study that showed pretty much nothing. A month later, again, we went through the same exercise. Still nothing.  So I decided to go for another opinion.  At the request of my mother, I went to see her “brilliant” hand specialist. Still the same result.  Finally, I decided I would just have to live with it.

Although we hear many stories about second and third opinions resulting in the same diagnosis, we also hear stories about people who knew something was wrong and they pursued professional opinions until something significant was indeed discovered.

Sometimes we simply accept the professional’s opinion and sometimes we reject the diagnosis. It is important, in this medically advanced world, to know when to accept and when to look further. The decision can only come from knowing oneself.