Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Purposeful Living is Difficult to Achieve

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Friday, August 4, 2017 at 12:00:00 am

"When the Lord brings you into the land the He swore to your assign to you -great and flourishing cities that you did not build." (Deuteronomy 6:10)

One of the debates ongoing in our country right now is about "entitlement programs."  The nomenclature indicates the thrust of the discussion. When we speak of entitlements, we are referring to Medicaid, Medicare, food assistance and social security.  We are not usually referencing education, at least through high school, though we could make an argument it should be included.

The general argument is as follows.  As a society we have an obligation to care for those in need.  Opposing that idea is if we provide those basic needs  there will be people who become complacent, won't seek to work and will simply be a drain on those who are paying more than their fair share. Both arguments have merit. 

According to our tradition we are required to help those in need.  According to empirical evidence, there are going to be people who take advantage of the system as it is currently structured.

Already, in the Torah we find a fear that entitlement may lead to complacency.   In Moses last days he is afraid the people once they are comfortable will no longer make the effort to live a principled life. 

Making a living is difficult.  Making ends meet can be a struggle.  Leading a life of values is sometimes inconvenient.  However, like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from a hard day's work, so too, living a life of purpose and meaning brings its own rewards.


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.