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! 

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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.

Article

It sure is easier, and more tempting, to stay in bed, in our cozy "pajamas," and shy away from life's many callings. But in Judaism, "I'm not in the mood" has never been a good enough excuse. "I don't feel like it" is an expression that has never been welcomed into the Jewish lexicon. Even when our feelings are down and our interest is low, we must learn to put on clothes of happiness and enthusiasm to fulfill our everyday purpose, to serve, to smile, to lend a helping hand, and to do as much good as we can for the betterment of ourselves and our surroundings.

Rabbi Allouche

Did you know that a simple smile can take away your stress?

A few years ago, psychologists asked different people to hold pencils in their mouths for a few moments. This exercise caused them to mimic a smile, and activate the same muscles of the mouth, cheeks, and eyes that come to life when we are happy.

The results were astonishing: this simple trick made the subjects of this study genuinely happier. The activation of their facial muscles triggered their emotions of joy and it boosted their general mood.

Perhaps, this was the idea behind one of the strange commandments in this week’s portion:
When the priests took the ashes out of the Temple, their entire clothing outfit had to be changed. In the words of the Torah: “And he shall take off his clothes and put on other clothes, and remove the ashes outside the camp,” (Leviticus 6:4).

But why did they have to change their clothes to take out the garbage? Say, you’re sitting at home comfortably, and you are asked by your lovely spouse to take out the garbage. Would you first go to your room and change your clothes for this special occasion? How absurd!

The answer is profound and beautiful: When working for G-d, it is important to “change our clothes.” When we assume the role of G-d’s agents of kindness in our world, we ought to come out of our cocoons, dress our faces with a smile, and equip ourselves with the conviction to help others and make a difference in their lives.

It sure is easier, and more tempting, to stay in bed, in our cozy “pajamas,” and shy away from life’s many callings. But in Judaism, “I’m not in the mood” has never been a good enough excuse. “I don’t feel like it” is an expression that has never been welcomed into the Jewish lexicon.
Even when our feelings are down and our interest is low, we must learn to put on clothes of happiness and enthusiasm to fulfill our everyday purpose, to serve, to smile, to lend a helping hand, and to do as much good as we can for the betterment of ourselves and our surroundings.

So next time, your children, your spouse, your friends, a stranger, and your deepest self, call upon you to help throw away their inner garbage, and to infuse freshness and joy in their lives; clothe yourself with your best clothes, your brightest smile, and your shiniest self, and seize the moment.

As our ancestors in the times of the Temple, you too will then have become G-d’s holy priest of goodness and healing in our broken world.

Article

"Nobody finds themselves in a situation; you put yourself in a situation. And if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe

In 2011, in an address to thousands of Rabbis, Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks shared the story of his special encounter with the late Lubavitcher Rebbe:

“I came to 770 [the Rebbe’s headquarters in New York), and eventually the moment came when I was ushered into the Rebbe’s study. I asked him all my intellectual, philosophical questions; he gave intellectual, philosophical answers, and then he did what no one else had done.

He did a role reversal, he started asking me questions. How many Jewish students are in Cambridge? How many get involved in Jewish life? What are you doing to bring other people in?

Now, I hadn’t come to become a Shliach (an emissary). I’d come to ask a few simple questions, and all of a sudden he was challenging me. So I did the English thing. You know, the English can construct sentences like nobody else, you know? 

So I started the sentence, “In the situation in which I find myself…” – and the Rebbe did something which I think was quite unusual for him, he actually stopped me in mid-sentence. He says, “Nobody finds themselves in a situation; you put yourself in a situation. And if you put yourself in that situation, you can put yourself in another situation.

And Rabbi Sacks concluded: “That moment changed my life.” (For the full video of Rabbi Sacks’ speech, click HERE).

At the opening of this week’s portion, when the Torah describes the calling of G-d to Moses, it uses the Hebrew word, “Vayikra.” But, interestingly, when the Torah describes the calling of G-d to Bilaam, the prophet who tried to curse the Jewish people, it uses the word “Vayikar.” 

Both Hebrew words are almost identical. But their meaning is diametrically different. “Vayikra,” means “and He called.” “Vayikar,” means “and He happened upon.”

The difference is striking, and it shares a reverberating life-lesson: 

“And He called,” speaks of G-d’s willingness to engage with us and form a mutual relationship of love and devotion. “And He happened upon,” speaks of a passive, and almost unintentional, relationship, in which real connections can seldom be forged.

In Judaism, things don’t just happen. Nothing is a coincidence. In the Rebbe’s words, “we don’t just find ourselves in situations.” Thus, in Judaism, we are asked to become Moses; not Bilaams. We are summoned to take a stance for G-d and do everything in our power to better our surroundings, especially when evil threatens our globe. We are asked to “put ourselves into every one of life’s situations,” and live up to G-d’s calling: to be lights unto nations, and agents of kindness and goodness unto the world.

So next time your mind is filled with doubt, and you ask yourself “why should I get out of bed today?” or, “why did this happen?” or, “why should I come out of my comfort zone and make any effort to do that Mitzvah?” Know that G-d is calling you. 

And know that G-d will await patiently until you respond with a committed heart, and an active hand, to actualize your purpose, and turn every situation into a Divine experience.

Article

Leaders of empowerment are oftentimes power-less. They have no governments and armies. They have no spy agencies and police forces. Yet, they possess a voice of truth, a heart of love, and a soul on fire. And while yesteryear's leaders of power have long disappeared into the dustbin of history, our leaders of empowerment continue to influence and inspire us all, until this very day.

“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell.

There are two types of leaders. Leaders of power, who lead by force; and leaders of empowerment, who lead by influence.

The difference between the two is striking:

“Leaders of power” seek to gain control over people and their territories. “Leaders of empowerment” aim to let go of their control, by sharing all that they have with others – from their wisdom to their skills to their possessions.

Judaism has not not always looked at “leaders of power” favorably. Even the appointment of kings, leaders of power, is frowned upon in our holy Bible.

Conversely, Judaism calls for and celebrates “leaders of empowerment.” Our history is replete with such shining examples who are praised and admired until this very day. Abraham empowered the world with monotheism. Moses empowered a nation with freedom. Queen Esther empowered her people with her courageous stance against tyranny. And the list goes on.

Leaders of empowerment are oftentimes power-less. They have no governments and armies. They have no spy agencies and police forces. Yet, they possess a voice of truth, a heart of love, and a soul on fire. And while yesteryear’s leaders of power have long disappeared into the dustbin of history, our leaders of empowerment continue to influence and inspire us all, until this very day.

In the past few weeks, a clear juxtaposition between these two models of leadership has emerged.

On the one hand, we have witnessed an army led by a “leader of power” who invaded a neighboring country, wreaking death, havoc, and destruction.

On the other hand, we have also witnessed the rise of a fearless “leader of empowerment”, a president, the descendant of holocaust survivors, who has inspired his people, and millions worldwide, with an indefatigable spirit of resilience and defiance.

We pray and hope that our leaders of empowerment will triumph over the leaders of power, and that peace will be restored swiftly. But our response must be more personal. We too must step up to the plate and become leaders of empowerment.

Where there is evil and darkness, we must create goodness and light. When innocent people are confronted with forces of destruction, we must respond mightily and assist them with forces of construction and do all that we can to help them rebuild their lives – from assisting their rescue, to helping them monetarily, to strengthening their spirits with words of prayer and acts of support.

This is a quiet heroism – there are no flamboyant shows, no dramatic gestures that capture attention. I am not so naïve as to believe that good deeds alone will stop this mayhem. But we can, and must, shape the world — the world in which we live — by our actions.

Let us become leaders of empowerment. Let us leave our marks on this world for good. Let us “choose life” and fill our globe with actions of goodness and deeds of kindness.

We will then undoubtedly usher in a new era of peace and redemption, where “our leaders of empowerment will be restored as in days of old”(Isaiah 1:26), and “hearts of stone will be replaced by hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).

May it happen speedily. Amen.

Article

From time to time, we ought to pause, take an accounting, and ask ourselves: “Ayeika?” “Where am I? Am I engaged in creations that will make me, my family, and G-d, proud? Am I living my life to my fullest potential?”

Rabbi Allouche

“What is your most important achievement in life?”

This question is presented to us at the conclusion of the two stories of creation in our Torah. The first, is at the beginning of Genesis, when G-d creates the world. The second, is in this week’s portion, when the Jewish people create a Tabernacle for G-d in the desert. 

After G-d created our world, he asked Adam and Eve, “Ayeika – where are you?” They had sinned and G-d was reproaching them: “Where are you in life? What have you accomplished? What is your purpose?”

And then again, in this week’s portion, the Torah lists all of the donations that the Jewish people contributed toward the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. This detailed accounting teaches us too that every action counts.

The overall lesson is powerful: Each of us is surely involved in creations of our own. We are all engaged in building relationships, in connecting with our families, in growing our jobs, in helping others, in giving to charitable organizations, and in bettering ourselves and our surroundings.

But from time to time, we ought to pause, take an accounting, and ask ourselves: “Ayeika?” “Where am I? Am I engaged in creations that will make me, my family, and G-d, proud? Am I living my life to my fullest potential?” Or, as Rabbi Nachman of Breslov once put it: “Have I looked heavenward today, and as heaven looked back at me with a smile?”

The late Steve Jobs once shared that every morning he would look at himself in the mirror 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 his answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, he confessed that he knew that he “needed to change something.”

Similarly, the bedtime Shema, which we recite at night before going to sleep, echoes a similar question, as it begs us to look back at our day and ask ourselves: “Have I made my part of the world today a little bit better than it was yesterday?”

The answer we ought to give ourselves today and every day is a resounding ‘yes’.

And then, at a very old age, we will be able to look back at our lives, and tell ourselves, G-d, and our friends that our “most important achievements” were accomplished every single day.

Article

When we count people, we value them for who they seem to be. When we "elevate" people we value them for who they can, and will, be. When we count people, we place our faith in finite numbers. When we elevate people we place our faith in infinite potentials. And most importantly, when we count people, we evoke in them a response of "here I am." When we "elevate" people, we evoke in them a response of "there - so, so high - there, I will be!"

Rabbi Allouche

Some things are lost in translation.

In the opening verse of this week’s portion, G-d commands Moses to count the Jewish people: “When you take a census of the Israelites to count them…”

Yet, at a deeper glance, G-d does not command Moses to “take a census” of His people. Rather, He commands him to “elevate” (in Hebrew, “Ki Tisa”) His people.  The difference between “taking a census” and “elevating” is enormous.

When we count people, all we see is their bodies. When we “elevate” people, we also see their souls.

When we count people, we value them for who they seem to be. When we “elevate” people we value them for who they can, and will, be.

When we count people, we place our faith in finite numbers. When we elevate people we place our faith in infinite potentials.

And most importantly, when we count people, we evoke in them a response of “here I am.” When we “elevate” people, we evoke in them a response of “there – so, so high – there, I will be!”

When Moses proceeds to “elevate” the Jewish people, they respond by turning into the best version of themselves, and they gave abundantly to the construction of a tabernacle for G-d in the desert. In fact, they gave so generously, that, at one point, Moses had to ask them to stop giving! (See Exodus 36:2-7).

A few years ago, after CBT launched its Mitzvah Campaign (which you are all welcome to contribute your Mitzvah too by emailing us here), someone asked me: “Do you really believe that one Mitzvah can change a person with Mitzvahs?”

My response was clear: “I try not to see ‘persons’; I see ‘souls’. And when souls are ignited with mitzvahs, they shine bright and wide, to eternity.”

In the words of the German writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe: “Treat a man as he appears to be, and you make him worse. But treat a man as if he were what he potentially could be, and you make him what he should be.”

Article

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Futerfas (1907-1995), a legendary Chasidic Jew, who had suffered years of exile in Siberia simply for teaching Judaism in communist Russia, once taught his students: "If you lost money, you haven't lost anything. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you have lost half, for you are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you've lost everything."

Rabbi Allouche

Can you be in two places at the same time? Apparently, in the Jerusalem Temple, you could.

You see, if you weren’t a priest, you were not allowed to enter the chamber where the Menorah stood. So, if you wanted to kindle the Menorah, you would have to stand in the adjoint room, the “Temple’s courtyard”, and use a very long pole to reach the Menorah in the room next door, and kindle its lamps.

But why not make it easier for everyone to light the Menorah and either allow ordinary people into the chamber where it stood or move the Menorah to where it can be accessible to all?

This intentional set-up conveyed a profound lesson:

It is every person’s duty to dream and aspire to achieve the highest peaks of life, even if they stand beyond our reach. Dreams and aspirations are the engines of our growth. And without them, our lives are fruitless and purposeless. In the words of Robert Browning, an English Poet: “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp. Or what’s a heaven for?”

This trait also defined all of history’s shining luminaries. Abraham dreamed of healing the world with monotheism. Moses dreamed of leading his people into the promised land. Queen Esther dreamed of saving her people from extermination. Isaiah dreamed of the Messianic times. These giants, and so many others, teach us that we can never be satisfied with our achievements of yesterday. Every day, we must grow and grow and grow.

But what if our life’s challenges are too difficult? What if our life’s hardships are too confining? Should our dreams take the back seat? Shall our aspirations disappear?

The lighting of the Menorah with a very long pole teaches us that we can never quit dreaming. No matter the circumstances – even if we feel that we are far removed from light – we must nevertheless try to reach it, and ignite it, in ourselves and in our world.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel Futerfas (1907-1995), a legendary Chasidic Jew, who had suffered years of exile in Siberia simply for teaching Judaism in communist Russia, once taught his students: “If you lost money, you haven’t lost anything. Money comes and money goes. If you lose your health, you have lost half, for you are not the person you were before. But if you lose your resolve, you’ve lost everything.”

So if you are struggling with a difficulty, big or small, don’t lose your resolve. Muster your courage, take out your inner pole, and kindle your Menorah. Do a good deed, perform a Mitzvah, and ignite a light of kindness in our world.

Greatness is sure to follow.  

Shabbat Shalom, and many, many blessings!
Rabbi Allouche