Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Radical Caring

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, March 15, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3:2

HANINA, THE VICE-HIGH PRIEST, SAID: PRAY FOR THE WELFARE OF THE GOVERNMENT, FOR WERE IT NOT FOR THE FEAR THEREOF, ONE MAN WOULD SWALLOW UP ALIVE HIS FELLOW-MAN.

Social responsibility is at the core of our value system. Care of one another is one of the most basic principles in Judaism. The welfare of the community takes precedence over the single person. This concept, though essential to our national survival is at odds with our modern sensibilities that places the individual at the center of our priorities.

Our Mishna teaches us that we must think of others. We must pray for others. The responsibility of leaders is great. Much rests on their shoulders. The very idea of government rests on the idea that there are those charged with the care of the common good. Those people find themselves is a difficult place of trying to please so many and they need our prayers.  

Every Shabbat morning we say the words, “Our God and God of our ancestors: We ask your blessings for our country, for its government, for its leaders and advisors, and for all who exercise just and rightful authority.”  In that prayer we give language to the hope that they are inspired by our tradition to do what is best and serve a noble cause. 

Maybe God hear our prayers and the prayers of all, for life and for peace.

 

  

Say it Out Loud

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Mishna Avot 3:1

AKABIAH B. MAHALALEEL SAID: APPLY THY MIND TO THREE THINGS AND THOU WILT NOT COME INTO THE POWER OF SIN: KNOW WHENCE THOU CAMEST, AND WHITHER THOU ART GOING, AND BEFORE WHOM THOU ART DESTINED TO GIVE AN ACCOUNT AND RECKONING. WHENCE CAMEST THOU? — FROM A FETID DROP. WHITHER ART THOU GOING? — TO A PLACE OF DUST, OF WORM AND OF MAGGOT. BEFORE WHOM ART THOU DESTINED TO GIVE AN ACCOUNT AND RECKONING? — BEFORE THE KING OF THE KINGS OF KINGS, THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE.

It is difficult to keep our heads up in trying times.  This Mishna, unfortunately, identifies how we all feel sometimes. There are times when we all feel unworthy. There are times when we all feel as though we have no direction and we have no control and life seems utterly futile.

Strangely enough saying it – knowing others feel the same gives us comfort. So say it. Share your fear, your concern, your anxiety- and know you are in good company. Whether it is the words of Akabiah B. Mahahlaleel or the famous words of Thomas A Harris MD, in one of the best selling self-help books ever published, I’m OK, You’re OK.

  

Anger Only Hurts Yourself

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Thursday, March 1, 2018 at 12:00:00 am

Rabbi Yehoshua taught: The begrudging eye, the evil impulse, and hatred of one’s fellow human

being will ruin a person’s life. (Mishna Avot 2:16)

 

The literal translation of the final phrase of this Mishna, motzi’im et ha’adam min ha’olam, will ruin a person’s life, is “takes a person out of this world.” It is the literal translation that I appreciate. We can become angry, jealous people. We can become discontented and the Mishna says that steals us away from being truly alive. We grow to live in our heads and not in the world.

 

There are so many obstacles to living our life to its fullest. This Mishna offers a few examples.  I often wonder why I respond to certain circumstances better than I do to others.  I, like all other people, have triggers. If I can identify those triggers I find I can respond better. I know that when I am tired, my patience runs thin. I know that when I am hungry my temper flairs faster. And although I cannot always get enough sleep or even enough to eat I must realize that is no excuse for poor behavior. And if that is true for physical deprivation, than it must also be true for emotional paucity.  Recognizing  this, is part of the solution. The problem isthat as we grow so do our triggers and we lose track of our true selves.

 

Rabbi Yehoshua explains there is much that confuses us and robs us of our joy. There are impulses that distract us from being the people we want to be; that divert us from living the life we want to live. Anger and jealousy are natural responses to certain interactions.  But we must fight against those responses, rather,choosing to open our hearts and remain connected to our world and our true selves.