Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Self Love

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, July 5, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3:14 

HE , Rabbi Akiba, [ALSO] USED TO SAY: BELOVED IS MAN IN THAT HE WAS CREATED IN THE IMAGE [OF GOD]. [IT IS A MARK OF] SUPERABUNDANT LOVE [THAT] IT WAS MADE KNOWN TO HIM THAT HE HAD BEEN CREATED IN THE IMAGE [OF GOD], AS IT IS SAID: FOR IN THE IMAGE OF GOD MADE HE MAN.

BELOVED ARE ISRAEL IN THAT THEY WERE CALLED CHILDREN OF THE ALL-PRESENT. [IT WAS A MARK OF] SUPERABUNDANT LOVE [THAT] IT WAS MADE KNOWN TO THEM THAT THEY WERE CALLED CHILDREN OF THE ALL-PRESENT, AS IT IS SAID: YE ARE CHILDREN OF THE LORD YOUR GOD. BELOVED ARE ISRAEL IN THAT A DESIRABLE INSTRUMENT WAS GIVEN TO THEM. [IT WAS A MARK OF] SUPERABUNDANT LOVE [THAT] IT WAS MADE KNOWN TO THEM THAT THE DESIRABLE INSTRUMENT, WHEREWITH THE WORLD HAD BEEN CREATED, WAS GIVEN TO THEM, AS IT IS SAID: FOR I GIVE YOU GOOD DOCTRINE FORSAKE NOT MY TEACHING.

Each of us is highly critical of ourselves, be it our appearance or our behavior. Some of us do it publicly with self-deprecating remarks; some of us do it in front of the mirror as we analyze every curve; some do it in the subconscious, second guessing every decision.  Every person seeks a path towards perfection.  Self-help books abound. Meditative practices explode; diets are invented every day. All in the hopes of being able to overcome our own personally perceived inadequacies. Our Mishna says you have a mistaken premise.

Each of us can improve.  Growth is a natural requirement of life. But the foundation must be a love of self, not self-loathing.  Know you are child of the Almighty.  Know you are great because you come from Greatness.  Know you are of the highest quality already because it is coded in your genes (and value doesn’t come from the way you look in jeans).

The repetitive nature of this Mishna only reinforces the point that we should regularly revisit our own value until we understand and accept it.  Daily, we should affirm this idea, God knows we spend enough time doing the opposite.

  

Fences

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Saturday, June 23, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3:13 

AKIBA SAID: JESTING AND LIGHT-HEADEDNESS LEAD A MAN ON TO LEWDNESS; TRADITION IS A FENCE TO THE TORAH; TITHES [FORM] A FENCE TO WEALTH, VOWS A FENCE TO SELF-RESTRAINT; A FENCE TO WISDOM IS SILENCE.

The book “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” is a wonderful children’s story about a mouse who starts to eat a cookie; he becomes distracted by the crumbs;  while cleaning the crumbs he is distracted by something else; and before you know it he has forgotten about the cookie until he has comes full circle, to all he wants is a cookie.

The same is true of our lives.  We often get distracted and lose sight of the really important things. We start working on our marriage;  then we start a career.  We start working on our career;  then the kids come along.  We get started on our parenting;  then the children grow up and move out.  Next thing you know we are back to our marriage.  The problem is, if we haven’t done the work on it all along, sometimes we don’t even have that.  

Our Mishna reminds us that often one thing leads to another. If we are to secure the really important things in life, then we need to safe-guard them. We need to create models of behavior to insure that we protect our core values and distance ourselves from distractions.

  

May Pride in One Another Unite Us

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Monday, June 4, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3,10

HE  (Hanina ben Dosa) ALSO USED TO SAY: ANYONE FROM WHOM THE SPIRIT OF [HIS FELLOW-] CREATURES DERIVES SATISFACTION, FROM HIM THE SPIRIT OF THE ALL-PRESENT [TOO] DERIVES SATISFACTION. BUT ANYONE FROM WHOM THE SPIRIT OF [HIS FELLOW-] CREATURES DERIVES NO SATISFACTION, FROM HIM THE SPIRIT OF THE ALL-PRESENT [TOO] DERIVES NO SATISFACTION. DOSA B. HARKINAS SAID: MORNING SLEEP, MIDDAY WINE, CHILDREN'S TALK AND SITTING IN THE ASSEMBLIES OF THE IGNORANT PUT A MAN OUT OF THE WORLD.

 “May selfish pride not divide us, may pride in one another unite us” are the words we offer before the open ark on Shabbat and holidays.  Implicit in this sentence is the idea that jealousy tends to place a stumbling block in the path of positive relationships. Wanting what someone else possesses has a double negative effect on us.  First, we resent the other person and secondly, we lose an appreciation of what we already have. This can happen in any relationship.  How we choose to deal with our feelings can make a huge difference.  We do have a choice.

When we hear of the fortune of another, we can easily choose to be upset, or we can choose to be happy for them. In choosing the later, we afford ourselves the opportunity to offer a moment of gratitude. I believe, this positive sentiment will result in the kindness being returned. 

When someone is spared from tragedy, they come to the synagogue and offer the blessing of Birkat HaGomel.  The congregation’s response to this rite of thanksgiving is, “May He who has been gracious to you continue to favor you with all that is good.” The response isn’t,”Just as God favored you may God also favor me.”  No, the response is one of true joy for another and with the added blessing of praying that the same will occur again for that person.

There are plenty of blessings to enjoy; may you find them in your life.  May they be so plentiful and deep that you never begrudge another theirs.

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