Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Necessary but not Sufficient

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, November 3, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

The Seven Noahide Laws, meant for the now-Jewish world, as traditionally enumerated are:

  1. Do not deny God.
  2. Do not blaspheme God.
  3. Do not murder.
  4. Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
  5. Do not steal.
  6. Do not eat from a live animal.
  7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

 

When I was in elementary and high  school, I would rush home and do my homework as fast as I could in order to get it out of the way so I could get on with more important things, like sports and t.v. This approach meant that I regularly got barely a passing grade and sometimes not even that.  It also had the profound effect of leaving me unprepared for tests and class participation. The same is true for living within a moral framework.  When we do the minimum required we are often left unprepared for what lies ahead.

 

For many, the Noahide Laws listed above, are all that is necessary for moral living.  As the story of the flood unfolds, we recognize that it is a story for all humanity, not specific to the Jewish people.  According to the story mankind is evil, God destroys the world; saves Noah; and together they start over.  From this, the rabbis of the Talmud tell us there is a minimum standard of behavior for all.  These are the Noahide Laws.  While we know these laws are necessary, they are not sufficient.

If we want to cultivate a full, meaningful and powerful life we must do more.

  

Yes, We are All Human

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, October 30, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

"I was afraid because I was naked." Genesis (3:10)

Adam utters this statement as soon as he discovers that he is naked (his punishment for eating of the forbidden tree).  It is in that moment, when he recognizes he was wrong and there was no undoing what he had done, that he feels most exposed.  By making a mistake he comes to realize he is human.

The message is simple and the lesson is profound.  The message is, we are human.  When stripped of all pretense and bravado, we recognize that we make mistakes.  When we make mistakes we are exposed; we are ashamed;  but it will not kill us. Certainly, Adam will now have to work harder to benefit from this world, but it does not kill him.  In many ways he grows to appreciate the world around him even more. 

One of the earliest lessons in the Torah is that as humans we make mistakes. How we react is important. We realize that mistakes are damaging. Sometimes they can be fixed and other times they alter the trajectory of our lives.  No matter, we can move on and we can move forward. We should not feel defined by our errors.  We must wake the next day as Adam did, get dressed and go out into the world.

 

  

People are More Valuable than Things

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, October 19, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

The holiday of Sukkot teaches us how to live while not knowing what will happen next. The holiday of Sukkot prepares us for the unknown and when we practice living this way, our response changes. Sukkot teaches us to practice being vulnerable so, if and when it actually happens, we will be prepared.

One of the great customs of Sukkot is Ushpizin. In this custom, we invite people from our ancient past to join us in the Sukkah. Simply by just being there, these individuals enhance our celebration. Sometimes we make investments in people and some of those investments yield unexpected or sometimes expected disappointments, while others exceed our expectations. 

There are people to whom we give so much and yet we find ourselves unsatisfied with the result, while there are those with whom we are pleasantly surprised by the way they have enhanced our lives. There will always be people who let us down, however, people are worth the investment.

When we place these two rituals side by side it is clear what our tradition is teaching us. It is explaining we ought to hold onto each other more than any material object.