Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Is There Really Such a Thing as Too Comfortable?

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Friday, July 28, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

You have stayed long enough. (Deuteronomy 1:6)

There is a danger that the people of Israel will grow too comfortable where they are and will be reluctant to move on into the unknown.  (Etz Hayim p. 982)

Rarely do we evaluate where we are and where we are going.  Life just happens.  We spend our time reacting to whatever twists and turns occur and do our best to keep our decisions in line with our priorities. 

Everyone's life has ebbs and flows, periods of great challenge and moments of great joy. They happen and our response, most often, is to take the path of least resistance.  Over time we are worn down and concede to whatever we face.  When we finally get a break from the ups and downs, we usually savor the moment instead of utilizing it.

When life hands us a moment of comfort, that is precisely the moment we need to ask ourselves…..what more do I want from life?  While we are in conflict or celebration, we are only in the moment. We can only be in responsive mode. The gift of comfort must be seized upon to do more, make more of our lives.   


But it Wasn't My Fault

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, July 20, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

Moses said to them, "You have spared every female! Yet they are the very ones who, at the bidding of Balaam, induced the Israelites to trespass against the Lord in the matter of Peor, so that the  Lord's community was struck by the plague.(Numbers 31:15-16)

When parents say, "This hurts me more than it hurts you," they mean, "You made a bad decision and now I am forced to punish you." To which, children often respond, "Than you don't have to do it."  Or, sometimes they will counter, "But it wasn't my fault."  It is this shifting of blame that usually goes nowhere and regrettably prompts a roll of the eyesfrom the parents.    

This is exactly how Moses responded.  Why didn't you kill the women?  It was their fault that our people strayed. To which we ought to respond, "No, we must take responsibility for our own actions. We had a choice; no one forced us."

It is natural to want to blame others for our own mistakes.  Avoiding doing so is the mark of a truely responsible adult.   


Why They Hate Us

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

At first, the nations of the world resented and hated the Israelites because their ways of worship were different from the nations and at a higher level.  Even when the people Israel tried to imitate gentile practices, though their enemies continued to resent them.  (Etz Hayim p. 919)

In what is surely going to be one of the most important books on Judaism in the next decade, Bernard Henri Levi describes the rise of a new form of anti-Semitism.  In The Genius of Judaism, Levi maintains that the only way to be efficiently anti-Semitic is to be anti-Zionist, to disguise the hate of the Jews under the umbrella of hate for Israel.  In this latest attempt to explain anti-semitism, he simply says it has a new form but the same hatred continues.   

The context of the above quote is a moment in the Torah when the Hebrews were beginning to assimilate into the world around them.  Then, a nation on their own, not yet inhabiting their own land, the Hebrews began to practice religion as their neighbors did.  This prompts the age old discussion of why do they hate us so?  When we are different, they hate us.  When we are like them, they hate us.

Hatred is about "the other."  When we see people who are different from ourselves, "the other,"often, threatening fear grips us.  That fear then turns into hate. The only thing that can transform fear into friendship is conversation, curiosity and discovery.   Until we all find the courage to understand “the other”, we will all be locked in this maelstrom of hate..  Assimilation is not the answer.