For every one of those 21 precious lives that were taken away from us, we must respond by impacting at least 21 lives, with acts of goodness and kindness — from giving charity to smiling more; from doing a stranger a favor to repairing a broken relationship; from setting aside times to nurture our soul to lending a helping hand. Indeed, we must fill the great vacuum that these 19 children and two adults have left in our world with light.

Rabbi Allouche

Evil has, once again, reared its ugly head.

Yesterday, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, a monstrous 18-year-old entered a Texas elementary school classroom and opened fire, killing 19 children and two teachers, just two days before their summer vacation.

How do parents live on after the murder of their precious child? How do students go back to school where they witnessed such unfathomable horrors? And how does a nation — still reeling from a mass shooting, just over a week ago, that cost the lives of 10 innocent people — recover from such a massacre?

The answers, I do not know. But here are five brief thoughts that, I hope, will contribute to our collective soul-searching and healing:

1. Zero Tolerance for ANY Violence

It is no secret that we live in a world filled with negative and even, violent, words and actions. With impulsivity, a loose finger on our computer’s mouse, and with the pathetic excuse of “freedom of speech”, so many of us spread their venom on all sorts of public forums and social media outlets.

But not every thought ought to be translated into words. Not every comment is worthy of our reaction. And not every tweet ought to be published or retweeted. For in the race to respond, our swirl of emotions can create ripples of violence. And in the heat of disagreements, pathways of destruction are oftentimes paved. In the words of Margaret Thatcher: “Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. Watch your character for it becomes your destiny.”

We must, therefore, incorporate a zero-tolerance policy toward any type of violence, including any type of condescending language, all sorts of abuses, and yes, even violent video games and movies that contaminate the minds and souls of our children.  

2. Beyond The “Gun Control” Debates

This horrific massacre has reignited political debates of old on “gun control” and “gun ownership”. Limiting access to guns may be an imperative idea, but after all said and done, what will matter most is not which weapons we hold in our closets, but which divine and moral values we hold in our hearts.

For, after all, do any of us fear being murdered by a God-fearing and decent person? I doubt it. Then, shouldn’t we hold discussions, predominantly, on character and soul development and the teaching of right and wrong?

The festival of Shavuot will be celebrated in just ten days (Eve of June 4 – Eve of June 6) in which we will be celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, 3334 years ago. There, we asserted our faith in our Creator and our commitment to His commandments. 

In preparation for this holiday, and in light of this massacre, let us recommit ourselves to the Divine values and ethics to which we subscribed over three millenniums ago. And let us teach our children to be moral people, not only for fear of the police or for the worry of public disapproval, but because there is a God that sees, hears, and cares about everything we do.

3. Absolute evil exists, and it must be fought, with unwavering determination.

Too often, evil is excused in the name of “moral equivalence”, or in the context of “your truth” versus “my truth.” For example, just recently, a US politician publicly equated U.S. and Israeli “atrocities” with those of Hamas and the Taliban!

This must stop. It is high time we recognize evil for what it is, and we stand united against it, with defiance and conviction (of course, in a legal and dignified way) until it is eradicated from all publications, and institutions that enable its existence. As King David so poignantly writes in his book of Psalms (97:10): “Those who love God, and goodness, hate evil”.

And let us heed the words of Albert Einstein, who warned us that “the world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

4. Life Is Too Precious To Waste It On Trivialities:

Here’s a question: If today was your last day on earth, what would you do? 

As I read about this massacre with a shattered heart, I suddenly realized that this question is not as far-fetched as it sounds. We really have no control over the timing of our death. Yet, we do have control over our lives. And when we encounter death, we suddenly realize how vulnerable we are, and how we, therefore, ought to make the best of every moment we live, every relationship we have, and every opportunity we have.

In 2005, in his commencement address at Standford University, Steve Jobs revealed that ever since the age of 17, he “would look at himself in the mirror every morning and ask himself: If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.”

Indeed, every day is filled with infinite treasures that will never return. Every moment is filled with opportunities that beg to be actualized. Every hour holds within it blessings that impatiently wait to be unleashed. Yet, too many times, we are so shackled by the troubles of our past or the fears of our future that we become complacent, and forget that today may just be our last day.

So why waste it on trivialities and not actualize the call, and purpose, of our soul?

5. Choose Life!

When encountering death and other life challenges, we are faced with two options: Sink or swim. Will we sink and succumb to despair, or will we swim forward, and respond to death with even more life; to despair with even more hope; to darkness with even more light?

Judaism has always chosen the latter. “Choose life,” Moses commanded us, in the name of G-d shortly before his passing, “so that you and your children may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Throughout our history, we responded to every calamity with a burst of life and an expansion that eventually lifted us above our hardships, as difficult as they may have been. Similarly, and following this horrific massacre, we too must do everything in our power to rebuild and restore ourselves and our communities. 

For every one of those 21 precious lives that were taken away from us, we must respond by impacting at least 21 lives, with acts of goodness and kindness — from giving charity to smiling more; from doing a stranger a favor to repairing a broken relationship; from setting aside times to nurture our soul to lending a helping hand. Indeed, we must fill the great vacuum that these 19 children and two adults have left in our world with light.

These precious individuals will then not have died in vain, and they will continue to live on and on, in our minds, in our hearts, and most importantly, in our actions. 

And then, our broken world will surely begin to heal, until we will usher in the ultimate redemption when evil shall exist no more.  Amen.

Article

Judaism does not believe in “countdowns.” In fact, the word “countdown” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, G-d’s Divine language. For, in Judaism, every day counts. Every minute is valued. Every moment is treasured. The journey itself is the destination.

Rabbi Allouche

Which modern-day book has had a big influence on your life?

Beyond the many books that our unparalleled Jewish heritage has to offer, I would pick “The Letters of Yoni Netanyahu.” This book is a collection of personal letters penned by Yoni Netanyahu over a period of thirteen years, from high school in Philadelphia to the IDF raid at Entebbe in 1976 in which Yoni was killed while liberating over 100 hostages who were captured by evil terrorists. 

The wisdom of Yoni in his letters is nothing short of inspiring. But here is my favorite paragraph: 

“Man does not live forever. He should put the days of his life to the best possible use. He should try to live life to its fullest. How to do this I can’t tell you. I only know that I don’t want to reach a certain age, look around me and suddenly discover that I’ve created nothing. I must feel certain that, not only at the moment of my death shall I be able to account for the time I have lived, I ought to be ready at every moment of my life to confront myself and say — this is what I’ve done.”

From Passover to Shavuot, Jewish people worldwide count time. “Today is one day of the Omer,” we declare on the second evening of Passover; “Today is two days…,” the following evening, “three days…” on the next, and so on. Seven weeks later, on the Festival of Shavuot and the Giving of the Torah, we conclude the count and climb to Sinai with the statement, “today are forty-nine days, which are seven weeks of the Omer.”

But if the goal is to count the days leading to Shavuot, why didn’t our Sages institute a proper “countdown” (as my children are currently doing, to count the days until their summer vacation…)? Why don’t we designate Shavuot as the “Big Day,” and start counting 50, then 49, then 48, etc. until we arrive at the final and exciting Shavuot destination?

The reason is telling: Judaism does not believe in “countdowns.” In fact, the word “countdown” doesn’t even exist in Hebrew, G-d’s Divine language. For, in Judaism, every day counts. Every minute is valued. Every moment is treasured. The journey itself is the destination. And the days that lead us to the “Big Day” are themselves “Big Days.”

Our Sages further teach that each of these 49 days must be used for self-refinement, introspection, and action so that by the time we reach the fiftieth day, we shall have amassed forty-nine segments of time and countless purposeful actions that have brightened and elevated our world.

“To realize the value of one hour, ask the lovers who are waiting to meet,” a famous saying exclaims. “To realize the value of one minute, ask a person who missed the train. To realize the value of one second, ask a person who just avoided an accident. To realize the value of one millisecond, ask the person who won a silver medal in the Olympics.”

To realize the value of your life, dare I add, count the days leading to Shavuot, and every day thereafter. Count them. Value them. Listen to them.

You’ll sure hear them whisper: “Please, I beg of you, don’t let me go to waste. Use me,
fully, to the best of your ability!”

Shabbat shalom, and many, many blessings,
Rabbi Pinchas Allouche

Article

In the race to speak back, we often forget to think. In the urge to reply, our swirl of emotions often eclipses our clarity of thought. And in the heat of disagreements, our minds often take the back seat.

Rabbi Allouche

“Tell me what your words are,” our Midrashic Sages teach, “and I will tell you who you are.”

How true. Our words mold us. They fuel our atmosphere with ‘energy.’ And they are a deep and accurate reflection of our inner character.

Perhaps, this is why G-d warns us in this week’s portion to not curse the deaf (Leviticus 19:14). We may think that cursing the deaf, is permissible. After all, since a deaf person cannot hear our curses, no harm will befall him or her.

Nonetheless, G-d warns us not to curse the deaf. Why? In the words of Maimonides, “because our Torah is concerned not only with the one who is cursed but also with the one who curses, as spoken curses – even those that are not heard – fill our hearts with anger and revenge.”

This powerful lesson is also conveyed by the word for “speech” in Hebrew, “dibur.” Interestingly, this word has a dual meaning. One the one hand, “dibur” can mean “word,” but on the other hand, “dibur” can also mean “bee.” The message is profound: Words are like bees. If uttered positively, words, like bees, can produce honey. If not, words, like bees, can produce a burning sting.

We live in an age in which many feel compelled to voice their reaction and pour out incessant words, to every story under the sun.

The reasons for this phenomenon are many. Some feel empowered by having their voices heard. Others think that it is their social duty to respond to every message, lest their “friends” become offended by their silence.

They may be right. But I beg to disagree. Not every Facebook post is worthy. Nor are they worthy of our likes, pokes, and comments. Not every Tweet is worthy. Nor are they worthy of our re-tweet. And not every Snapchat and text are worthy. Nor are they worthy of our response.

For in the race to speak back, we often forget to think. In the urge to reply, our swirl of emotions often eclipses our clarity of thought. And in the heat of disagreements, our minds often take the back seat.

In the wise words of the 18th century Sage, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern: “All that is thought should not be said, all that is said should not be written, all that is written should not be published, and all that is published should not be read.”

Article

"Be holy, for I am holy," G-d asks of us. With these brief words, G-d reminds us that since we have a fragment of the Divine in us, we are holy. And it is our duty, to reveal our core holiness and "be holy," at every moment and in every place.

Rabbi Allouche

Dear Friends,

Their story shocked the world.

In 2015, Mr. Arthur Booth was arrested on burglary charges. During his sentencing, Judge Mindy Glazer, who presided over the court, recognized Mr. Booth, and she asked him if they had gone to school together.

“Did you go to Nautilus, for middle school?” she asked him. Mr. Booth took a closer look at the judge and he broke down in tears, exclaiming, “oh, my goodness! Oh, my goodness!” Judge Glazer then went on to explain to the court how “he was the nicest kid in middle school,” and lamented the choices that led him to her courtroom.

After his release from jail, Judge Glazer shared her powerful advice with him. Looking sharply into his eyes, she instructed him: “You’re going to do something good for somebody else, that’s what you’ve got to do.”

Wise words from a wise woman. Indeed, it is our deeds that make us who we are. And if we can do something good for somebody else, time and time again, we can also become good.

But as I was watching their emotional exchange, I couldn’t help but think: how can two people begin their life-journey so close, yet evolve so far apart? Without a doubt there are many contributing factors to this answer, some of which are beyond our scope of knowledge and understanding. But here’s a thought that crossed my mind:

There are two ways to live life. One way is the way of resignation. The other is a way of determination.

The way of resignation is nothing short of a tragedy. In the holy words of the great Chassidic Master, Rabbi Aharon of Karlin, “the greatest tragedy of life is when a prince begins to believe that he is but a peasant, and he settles for less because he thinks he is less.” On the other hand, the way of determination empowers the person with a resilient drive that never tires until one’s greatness is actualized.

“Be holy, for I am holy,” G-d commands us in this week’s portion. With these brief words, G-d reminds us that since we have a fragment of the Divine in us, we are holy. And it is our duty, to reveal our core holiness and “be holy,” at every moment and in every place.

Perhaps, this was one of the differences between Judge Glazer and Mr. Booth. They may have come from similar milieus, and may have even mingled with the same friends. But the former was a person who never stopped believing in her inner holiness and her duty to act upon it. The latter, for reasons unbeknownst to us, was sadly forced to succumb to villainous forces, which made him neglect his inner holiness, and G-d’s calling to “be holy” and act holy.

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa, one of the leading rabbis of the 19th century, once addressed his disciples with a surprising yet important request:

“Write two truths on two separate notes,” he told them. Let one note state the verse uttered by our forefather Abraham: ‘I am dust and ashes.’ And let the other note state the teaching of our Sages: ‘For my sake, the world was created.’

Now place these two notes in your pockets. If your achievements engender arrogance, take out the first note and remember that you are but ‘dust and ashes.’ But if you are feeling despondent and dejected, take out the note that states that ‘the world was created for you.'”

Indeed, at times, when we are overcome with feelings of despondency and resignation, we ought to remember that the world was created for us, and for our holiness.

And it is awaiting us, now and at every instant, to be and act holy, each in our own way, each with our own vocation.

Article

As a young teen struggling to find my purpose in the vastness of our world, I recall seeking the advice of my dear mentor, world-scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. His poignant words have stayed with me until this very day: "Pini," he said affectionately. "Instead of asking what you want, look at your entire self - with all of your inner gifts and talents - in the mirror, and ask yourself what you, and only you, can and must become."

Rabbi Allouche

“Most people are other people,” Oscar Wilde once wrote. “Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions… their lives a mimicry.”

In our day and age, Wilde’s words ring compellingly true.

On Facebook and Instagram, for example, we can easily fool ourselves into believing that we are better, stronger, and prettier than the person we occasionally meet in the mirror. In this imaginary world, in which we may even have thousands of “friends,” only the most self-gratifying photos are posted, any foe can be blocked, and we are able to connect and “like” celebrities and megastars as if we really have a meaningful relationship with them.

On Twitter, we can easily fall into the illusion that we are loved and valued, just because we have hundreds or thousands of followers.

And as if this weren’t enough, computer games often give our youngsters a misleading perception that they are ninjas and snipers, entertainers, and sports stars.

As a young teen struggling to find my purpose in the vastness of our world, I recall seeking the advice of my dear mentor, world-scholar Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. His poignant words have stayed with me until this very day: “Pini,” he said affectionately. “Instead of asking what you want, look at your entire self – with all of your inner gifts and talents – in the mirror, and ask yourself what you, and only you, can and must become.”

He was right. Seeking to actualize our skills and talents, and the Divine calling within ourselves and in every moment, will help us live meaningfully and purposefully. Asking what we want in the here and now, may just lead us into becoming a poor imitation of the rich neighbor we envy, the sports star we like, and the politician we follow.

As we together march into the last days of Passover, beginning tonight until Saturday evening, in which we will celebrate the miracle of the splitting of the Red Sea, it is high time we too “split our own seas” and unearth our inner “I.”

Let us live a life that is true to our unique, Divine, and limitless self, as we pay heed to the sweet voice deep within our seas that never stops calling upon us to fulfill our Divine purpose in life with actions of goodness and deeds of kindness.

I look forward to celebrating with you these last days of Passover, starting tonight, as we will together celebrate the splitting of the Red Sea,  by our ancestors, and hopefully, by us too.
 
See you at CBT for services!

With warm wishes for a Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Allouche

This new exercise will let our kids escape from all their distractions — if only for a minute or two — so they can think, feel, reflect, and breathe. I’m confident this will have a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of our kids.

Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey

HB 2707 Bill Signing Ceremony – Moment of Silence

Governor Doug Ducey

4/12/2022

Hello, everyone. Thank you all for being here.

Last month — in this exact spot — we launched the AZ OnTrack Summer Camp, an initiative designed to get our kids caught up in critical areas like math, reading, and American civics. Our kids have fallen dramatically behind, and it’s our number-one priority to get them back on track. 

But academic learning loss is only one challenge our kids are confronted with today. The proliferation of social media and cell phones have created countless distractions for our kids — there’s no question about it.

These devices are taking our kids’ attention away from their friends, their families, their faith, and even their own thoughts and feelings. Just as we’re working to get our kids refocused in the classroom, we should also work to get them refocused emotionally too.

That’s exactly what this bill in front of us does. This legislation requires all of Arizona’s public schools and charter schools to set aside time every day for students to engage in a moment of silence.

A moment may not seem like a lot of time. But think about the impact that a moment of silence has when we honor, remember, and mourn the fallen — just as one example.

That moment allows us to reflect on their life, their impact on our world, and what they meant to us. It’s a simple exercise, yet it holds enormous weight and immense value. 

Think about the kind of impact it could have on kids of all faiths as they do it every day. And the best part is, this moment of silence can be used for anything kids want — meditation, prayer, reflection, or whatever they or their parents think is valuable.

This new exercise will let our kids escape from all their distractions — if only for a minute or two — so they can think, feel, reflect, and breathe. 

I’m confident this will have a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of our kids. I want to thank Representative Alma Hernandez for sponsoring this legislation and leading on this issue. I also want to thank Rabbi Pinchas Allouche from Congregation Beth Tefillah of Arizona for your hard work and support to help get this bill to my desk.

And I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Rabbi Schneersohn — also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe — an influential figure of the Jewish community. In 1981, shortly after the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan, the Rebbe called for a moment of silence in schools at the beginning of every day. 

This bill was inspired by him and his legacy, and today would have been his 120th birthday. I’m eager to sign this bill today, which will further the vision of the great Rebbe, enhance the education of our children, and contribute to their emotional and spiritual well-being. I’d now like to hand it over to Representative Hernandez to share a few words about the importance of this legislation.

Thank you, Representative, and thank you to everyone here for all your leadership. Without further ado, let’s sign this bill.

There it is — H.B. 2707 — the law of the land. I’m confident this new law will improve the lives of our kids today and well into the future. Thank you. 

This will enable our children, in this age of distraction inundated with Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many more intrusions, to take a moment at the beginning of the day to focus inward and anchor themselves in the moral and spiritual values that will be suggested to them by their parents, so that they can thrive not just intellectually, but also spiritually and emotionally; not just as human doings, but also, as human beings.

Rabbi Allouche

Today, history was made in Arizona — and, in large part, due to our amazing CBT.

After months of tireless work, my friend, Arizona Governor, Doug Ducey signed into law Arizona House Bill 2707, also known as “the moment of silence bill.” This new law now requires all our public and charter school children in Arizona to begin their every school day with a moment of silence and reflection.

This will enable our children, in this age of distraction inundated with Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, and so many more intrusions, to take a moment at the beginning of the day to focus inward and anchor themselves in the moral and spiritual values that will be suggested to them by their parents, so that they can thrive not just intellectually, but also spiritually and emotionally; not just as human doings, but also, as human beings.

This bill was inspired by our late Lubavitcher Rebbe — whose 120th birthday falls today — who called upon the United States of America to implement this bill in all public schools, after the attempted assassination of President Reagan in 1981, in the hopes of restoring emotional and spiritual health, sanity and accountability, to our children and to a society that can produce such an assassin.

In the words of the Governor in his address today: “This new exercise will let our kids escape from all their distractions — if only for a minute or two — so they can think, feel, reflect, and breathe. I’m confident this will have a significant impact on the mental and emotional health of our kids. 
I want to thank Representative Alma Hernandez for sponsoring this legislation and leading on this issue. I also want to thank Rabbi Pinchas Allouche from Congregation Beth Tefillah of Arizona for your hard work and support to help get this bill to my desk.


And I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Rabbi Schneersohn — also known as the Lubavitcher Rebbe — an influential figure of the Jewish community…. I’m eager to sign this bill today, which will further the vision of the great Rebbe, enhance the education of our children, and contribute to their emotional and spiritual well-being.” For the full transcript of the Governor’s remarks, click HERE.

Thank you to AZ representative Alma Hernandez for sponsoring this bill, to my dear friend, Adam Kwasman for stewarding this bill through its many hurdles along the way, to my dear friend Maria Fuentes for your guidance and assistance, and to Governor Doug Ducey for your inspiring leadership and friendship.


Onward and upward to more and more accomplishments that will better and illuminate our world! 

Article

Oftentimes, we cannot liberate ourselves from life's impediments because our thoughts, our dreams, and our ambitions, are looking downward. Yet, we forget that what makes us free is our very ability to look, and aim, heavenward.

Rabbi Allouche

It’s all in the name.

At least, that’s what marketing experts would tell you. That is why so many entrepreneurs and companies will not hesitate to spend hefty sums on “personal branding,” and “product labeling.” So, why would G-d pick the name “Passover” for our upcoming festival, which falls next Friday evening (April 15)?

The Talmud explains that this name was chosen as it refers to G-d “passing over” the homes of the Jewish people in Egypt, as He carried out the tenth plague, which included the killing of the Egyptian firstborns.

But isn’t this festival about so many more miracles? Aren’t we also celebrating the Grand Exodus from Egypt? And what about the other nine plagues? So why name this festival after the Tenth plague alone?

The answer is surpassingly beautiful. And it speaks to the very essence of freedom:

To be free means that we are able to “pass over” the challenges of life, even if those seem insurmountable.

o be free means that the impossible is oftentimes possible, if we can allow the power of our will and the conviction of our faith to “pass over” our perceived limitations.

To paraphrase a slogan of the US Armed Forces: “The difficult we do right away; the impossible takes a little longer.”

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, one of the great Chassidic Master at the turn of the 19th Century, would often ask his disciples: “Did you look heavenward today?”

His message was profound: Oftentimes, we cannot liberate ourselves from life’s impediments because our thoughts, our dreams, and our ambitions, are looking downward. Yet, we forget that what makes us free is our very ability to look, and aim, heavenward.

We might define ourselves by the size of our bank account, the waist of our body, the dimensions of our home, or the limits of our natural tendencies. We may even say to ourselves, from time to time, “this is the way I was born, and this is the way I will always be.”

But on this upcoming festival, G-d passed over, and so can we. Our confining nature can be altered, our narrow perspectives can be changed. And if we just learn to look heavenward and focus on our soul, its limitless potential, and its unique purpose, we too can become free.

Shabbat shalom, an early Chag Sameach, and many, many blessings,
Rabbi Allouche

Article

Every day ought to be treated as the most important day of the year. Every day is filled with infinite treasures that will never return. Every moment is filled with opportunities that beg to be actualized. Every hour holds within it blessings that impatiently wait to be unleashed.

Rabbi Allouche

In the 16th century, an innocent Jew was sentenced to life in prison by an anti-Semitic baron.

One day, the cruel baron decided to show him a bit of mercy, and grant him one day of freedom each year.

The Jew was torn. Which day should he choose? Should he choose Yom Kippur? Should he choose his birthday, or perhaps, his wedding anniversary?

He decided to pen a letter to one of the foremost rabbinic leaders of his generation, Rabbi David ibn Zimra, to share with him his great dilemma. The Rabbi’s advice did not tarry: “Don’t wait,” he replied. “Choose the first available day he gives you. Grab it immediately. Be it a holiday or a regular Tuesday.”

Rabbi David ibn Zimra words share a powerful truth. Every day ought to be treated as the most important day of the year. Every day is filled with infinite treasures that will never return. Every moment is filled with opportunities that beg to be actualized. Every hour holds within it blessings that impatiently wait to be unleashed. Yet, too many times, we are shackled by the troubles of our past or the fears of our future that we become complacent, and forget that our most important day of the year may just be today.

To paraphrase the brilliant words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: “Anything that is worth doing, is worth doing now.”

This is the message that G-d imbued in His people, shortly after the Grand Exodus — during this Hebrew month of Nissan which we are ushering in tonight and tomorrow — as He commanded them to… count days. “And you shall count for yourselves, from the day after Sabbath, seven full weeks.” Thus, Jews worldwide will continue to count the days of the Omer, from the second night of Passover until the Festival of Shavuot.

Indeed, to take us out to freedom, G-d took us out of Egypt. But to make us eternally free, G-d made us count – and appreciate – the value of each and every day.

During a recent trip to Israel, I visited my old high-school Yeshiva, the prestigious Mekor Chaim High-School, headed by my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory. As I entered the walls of the Yeshiva, I became the humble witness of an extraordinary sight: the Mekor-Chaim high-schoolers had formed a perfect circle around the Bima, as they held hands in unity, and danced with overflowing joy, as if that moment, was the most important moment of their lives. Their faces were beaming, and their hearts were set ablaze with the fire of G-d.

But it was the words of their song that moved me most:

“Ma shehaya, haya, ha’ikar lehatchil mehatchala…
Whatever was – was, the important thing is to start anew.
Father in Heaven, renew me completely and ignite my soul. Today. Now.”

Amen.

Article

There really exists only one type of time. Yes, there are unexpected moments that we are thrust into. But those moments are Divinely designed for us. Every minute, every place, every situation, no matter how temporary, has a purpose, and it is up to us to discover it, and live it fully.

Rabbi Allouche

Were you ever made to wait, and wait, for an appointment?

It seems the days of our lives are divided into two types of times: real-time and wasted-time.

The real-times are times in which we feel that we, and only we, are in control. They include moments such as quality-times with our family and friends, career-driven endeavors, and the times which we dedicate for the benefit of our physical and spiritual health.

The wasted-times includes times in which we feel that we have lost control. They include moments such as the times we spend waiting for an appointment. Or the times we are ‘stuck’ in traffic. Or the times we are bored in a convention with a line-up of speakers who love to hear themselves talk.

Most of us love the real-times of our lives. But we become frustrated with the wasted times, which seem, after all, “wasted.”

Yet, Judaism offers a different approach: There really exists only one type of time. Yes, there are unexpected moments that we are thrust into. But those moments are Divinely designed for us. Every minute, every place, every situation, no matter how temporary, has a purpose, and it is up to us to discover it, and live it fully.

This week’s Torah portion speaks of the cloud of G-d that “covered the Tabernacle” and guided the Jews in the desert during their many journeys. But why did G-d create a cloud to serve as our nation’s GPS? Wouldn’t a bird, for example, be enough? What is the message of the cloud?

Clouds impede the sight of man. They don’t allow us to see beyond the present tense. And the lesson is clear. It is as if G-d is telling each of us: “If you wish to live life fully and build saintly tabernacles in its every instance, you must learn to live within the clouds of life that block the experiences of the past and the illusions of the future, and allow you to focus on, and cherish, every minute of life.” This does not mean that preparing for the phases of life is unnecessary. But we ought to focus entirely on the creation of our personal tabernacles in every step, within every moment, even in those times that seem so “wasted.”

One of the most revered leaders of world-Jewry in the 18th Century, Rabbi Moshe Sofer, was once asked how long it took him to achieve greatness.

“It only took me five minutes,” he replied, astonishingly.

He further explained: “Every time there is a five-minute delay in my daily affairs – such as waiting in line at the grocery store, or waiting for a marriage ceremony to begin – I do not allow those minutes to go by idly. Instead, I take out a book to study, or I search for a Mitzvah to perform. Those five-minute moments, used purposefully, is what enables a person to achieve greatness.”

So next time we find ourselves in a moment, in which we wonder “why is this happening to me?” – we ought to remember that G-d is waiting for us to infuse that very moment with meaning and holiness.

We will then undoubtedly love living every second of our lives again, including those five-minute delays, and we too will then achieve greatness, each in our own unique way.