Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Lasting Effects

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

The Lord replied to Moses, “Whoever has sinned against me I will blot out of my book. Now go, lead the people to the place I spoke of, and my angel will go before you. However, when the time comes for me to punish, I will punish them for their sin.”  And the Lord struck the people with a plague because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made. (Exodus 32:33-35)

One key concept in logic is “post hoc ergo prompter hoc” which means“just because something follows an event doesn’t mean that event caused it.”  We often believe that two events that occur in close proximity with each other have a causal relationship.  But that is not always the case. That is why the Torah makes it clear.  Sin according to our tradition leads to punishment.

Today, we no longer believe that is obvious.  We prefer to believe that our actions have little consequence. Yet, the Torah reminds us that what we do, is a causal act.  Maybe it is obvious or perhaps we don’t even recognize it, but our behavior does affect others.  When we pollute our environment, there are negative outcomes.  When we treat the people in our lives poorly, there are often terrible lasting scars.

The same is true of positive interactions.  This week let’s become more cognizant of the potential impact of our actions.


Now and Forever

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, March 12, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

"It shall be for Aaron and his sons as their portion forever from the sons of Israel, for it is a heave offering; and it shall be a heave offering from the sons of Israel from the sacrifices of their peace offerings, even their heave offering to the LORD." (Exodus 29:28)

I wish I could predict the future. Short of that, I know that relationships often begin with great passion and grandiose intentions.  When we start a project, we sometimes think this is going to be the most creative ever.  When we get a new job, we hope it will be the best job ever.  When we enter into a new relationship we sometimes feel "this is the one."   Sometimes is actually is.  Sometimes it is not.

When the Jewish people began the project of assembling the Tabernacle and initiated the practice of the priesthood and sacrifice, there was tremendous enthusiasm.  They believed it would last forever or at least they imagined it would.  However, we know it did not.  The Temples were destroyed and the sacrifice was transformed into another form of worship.  That is not necessarily something to lament.  Maybe it is simply a natural progression, an inevitable evolution.

What is important is a commitment to keep our relationship with God alive, not to keep it the same. This week's parasha envisions a future in which we continue to be in relationship with the Divine even if it has morphed into something new. Might that be true of the relationships in our lives as well?


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.