Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

One Part Study, One Part Prayer, One Part Kindness

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Tuesday, October 3, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Shimon HaTzadik was one of the last members of the Great Assembly, This is was a favorite teaching of his: The world rests on three things - on Torah, on service to God (prayer), on deeds of loving kindness. (Mishna Avot 1:2)  

When my son was a small boy we would take him for his regular visit to his pediatrician.  Each time I had a list of concerns and questions.  I was a new parent and was trying to navigate this complicated world of parenting.  One particular visit I was distraught over the fact that I could not get him to eat vegetables at every meal.  Some days he would eat them and some days he would not.  I was very concerned he did not have a balanced diet and he was missing out on necessary vitamins and nutrients.  Our pediatrician simply remarked that he was confident that over the course of a week our son was getting everything he needed.

The same is true of our lives.  We need to balance all of the varied requirements made on us.  We must find a way to get the spiritual nutrients required, offered, suggested by our tradition. A daily dose of each would be great but if that is not possible then at least over the course of a week we ought to find time to nourish our spiritual life fully.  To which our Mishna asks us to add one part study, one part prayer, and one part acts of kindness.  If we can find a way to live by this formula we can construct a more meaningful life.   


You are not Weak, You are Human

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Saturday, September 23, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

They sacrificed to demons, no gods. Gods they had never known. New ones, who came but lately. Who stirred not your fathers' fears. (Deuteronomy 32:17)

Everyone has something that keeps them up at night, at some point in their lives.  Maybe as children, it is an upcoming test.  Maybe as an adult, it is how will we provide for our families. For some, our sleep is easily disturbed, others seem more stoic. No matter, everyone has something that haunts them at some point.  It might be something you regret or something you fear will happen.   Some face those fears head-on while others run away from them. This doesn't mean you are weak. It means you are human.

At this time of year we all feel our frailty. If we take the words of our High Holiday prayer book seriously, we cannot help but be bothered by the challenges the words offer. If we permit our souls to wonder at all, they may walk into the darkness.  You are not alone.  Even though those demons aren't real, they are no less frightening.


Concealed Acts

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Friday, September 15, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Concealed acts concern the Lord our God; but with overt acts, it is for us and our children ever to apply all the provisions of this Teaching. (Deuteronomy 29:28)

There are those who transgress secretly but perform mitzvot in public; others transgress openly but perform mitzvot secretly. (Itture Torah Vol. VI p.181)

At this time of year when we take an accounting of our past year’s actions, an internal dialogue takes place.  The volume on that discussion rises as the days of awe draw closer. We assess whether we have lived to our potential or we have fallen short. Often, we compare ourselves to others, asking, have we done better or worse than those around us?

The Chasidic masters caution us with regards to this approach because we really have no way of knowing.  For some their outward public behavior is not aligned with their private actions.  Some are secretly pious while others have a public personae.   

So, what is a better approach? 

Please join us as we usher in the High Holiday Season with Selihot this Saturday evening, September 16, 2017 at 9:00 pm. At that service we will  also recall our loved ones who passed away this year.