Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

All Clear Sign

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, February 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

“Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept for Me from every person whose heart so moves him.” (Exodus 25:2)

I just returned from the gym at the JCC on the Hudson. I went to work out there as soon as the “all clear sign” was given.   The phrase “all clear sign” is a phrase I heard first when I was living in Israel during the gulf war and we spent many hours in sealed rooms fearing chemical attack from Sadaam Hussein.

As you may have heard, as has been the case with so many JCC’s across the country, a bomb threat was called in and the building had to be evacuated until a full sweep of the facility had been completed. When the “all clears sign” was given, I did what I learned to do in Israel in 1990. I went about my normal day. I went right to the place in which the incident took place and made the statement loud and clear that I will not be deterred by cowardly, anonymous acts.

I did as my heart moved me. By going to the JCC, I was saying to those people who would have us run away that I am here to stay.   By going to the JCC, I am saying I will stand with my people, I will gather in Jewish places and I will not go away.

This week’s Torah reading is about building the Tabernacle. Our sacred tradition asks us to participate in its construction. Each person must respond in their own way, as their heart so moves them. I choose to build sacred institutions rather than run from them.

For this week’s Learning in My Living Room click here.


You Might Not Always Be Correct But Might Not Also Always be Wrong

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Saturday, February 25, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

“When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years; in the seventh year he shall go free without payment.” (Exodus 21:2)

“But if the slave declares, ‘I love my master…I do not wish to go free,’ his master shall take him before God.  He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and then he shall remain a slave for life.” (Exodus 21:5-6)

Sometimes we think we know what is best for others.  Sometimes we are prepared to let others determine our fate without our input.  We conjecture about how our children, our parents, our siblings should live their lives. In the work place, we believe we know best how our employees, even our employers, should perform their jobs. And at the other end of the spectrum, some of us are willing to relinquish all control.  We show up, but are prepared to let others determine our fate. This applies to our society as well.

The Torah carefully places the two statements regarding the slave side by side in order to instruct us of the importance of self-determination and moral imperative.  We often get ourselves into a groove and it becomes comfortable.  We find ourselves angry and that becomes who we are.  We find ourselves depressed and we make no effort to change.  We find ourselves discouraged and rather than finding a path towards hopeful living we choose to just stay the way we are.  And the same is true of the wrongs we commit.

We must not remain enslaved ourselves either.  Often others are able to forgive us more readily than we are able to forgive ourselves.  Just as we forgive others we must also learn to forgive ourselves.  There are moments when freedom becomes possible; if we choose not to seize those moments we may remain enslaved indefinitely.  


For this week’s Learning in My Living Room click here.


Special request:  Please come to morning minyan.  If you could commit to just one morning a week we would certainly make you feel right at home.




This Is Not How I Remember It

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to Me. (Exodus 19:4)

Often I tell you stories about my family; however, when my children are in shul and hear me tell the story they often remark, "That is not how we remember it."  Confidently, I insist that is actually how the events unfolded.  More determined, they correct my version.  More important to them are the details, while I insist the point of the story is the same no matter the individual specifics.

I imagine, when God turns to the children of Israel and says, " How I bore you on eagles' wings," the response was, "That is not how I remember it. The exodus wasn't that easy."   Maybe for God it was.  Maybe God wanted the people to remember it fondly.  Maybe in comparison to the challenges they would face in the future, it actually was.  However, I still imagine, at that moment the collective memory of our people was that the initial foray was hard.  To characterize it as anything but that, minimizes the challenges of that moment.          


To view this week's "Learning in My Living Room" click here.