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Abraham was an unwavering believer in the power of the Divine soul that inhabits every being - regardless of who he or she is. Even when he encountered "hopeless cases", Abraham still believed that their soul can be ignited and that their lives, therefore, can take a turn for the better. 

Rabbi Allouche

If he had lived today, many a friend, therapist, and psychologist would have deemed him a “hopeless case.”

It seems that Lot, Abraham’s nephew, lived a life replete with sin and failure. First, we are told that Lot would let his animals roam the fields of his neighbors and steal the produce of their land. Shortly thereafter,  to the city of Sodom, where he befriended the wicked. He then married a woman who despised guests. He even treated his daughters as prostitutes, who were easily ‘traded’ for personal favors.

But Abraham never gave up on Lot. He never ceased to reach out to him, with encouraging words and actions. But why? Why did Abraham — who was preoccupied day and night with revolutionizing the world with monotheism — give Lot so much attention? Why devote so much effort to such a “hopeless case”?

The answer is simple yet profound: Abraham was an unwavering believer in the power of the Divine soul that inhabits every being – regardless of who he or she is. Even when he encountered “hopeless cases”, Abraham still believed that their soul can be ignited and that their lives, therefore, can take a turn for the better. 

In the end, Abraham’s extraordinary approach transformed Lot, beyond anyone’s loftiest dreams. In this week’s portion, we encounter an unrecognizable Lot who welcomes two guests to his home in spite of Sedom’s cruel rule to ban visitors from entering the city. He loves them, feeds them, bathes their feet, and treats them like family. What a change did Abraham generate in Lot! 

It is said of Michelangelo that when he carved his famous statue of King David, he did not have to “carve” David from a rock. All he had to do was “uncover” David. He could already see David within the rock, even before his work began. That was Abraham’s vision too, who saw a spark of heaven and endless potential, even in the most disengaged and unaffiliated person.

In our own lives, we too may encounter people, or inner facets, that are deemed “hopeless.” At times, we even spend an immeasurable amount of time, energy, and resources, only to realize, that all of our efforts are seemingly in vain.

Yet Abraham teaches us to never give up. And he taught us all that which King David wrote so eloquently: “Those who plant in tears will, ultimately, harvest with shouts of joy” (Psalms 127:5).

The impact you have had on me, my beloved wife, Esther, our children, and myriads of others, is infinite. You have taught us how to love our children unconditionally, and to live our lives with passion, meaning, and purpose -- even when unfathomable challenges are imposed on us against our will. And by doing so, you have demonstrated to each and all that love is far mightier than bitterness, that hope is much greater than despair, and that light is undeniably stronger than darkness.

Rabbi Allouche

Dear Patsonia & Zalmi,

I often wonder how you find the strength and courage to cope with the unimaginable challenge of raising a “vegetable” baby.

The day of his birth, close to three years ago, stands frozen in time. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon, and we were readying ourselves for the holy Shabbat.

Following nine months of a very high-risk pregnancy, you were finally ready to have your third child. Our hearts were filled with joy, excitement, and anticipation. And then… a dreadful call came from you, Zalmi, my dear brother-in-law.
You shared with us that Patsonia was rushed to the hospital with a severe case of “placenta privera.” You also mentioned that she was in the ICU, fighting for her life, after experiencing an enormous amount of blood loss.

Finally, you said that your newborn baby lacked oxygen to his brain for over an hour after his birth and his condition remains “unknown.” You asked us to pray and “shake the heavens” and you promised to update us after Shabbat.
That entire Shabbat, we prayed, with a trembling heart and watery eyes, and beseeched G-d to protect and heal you, Patsonia, and your baby. After Shabbat, you, Zalmi, reassured us that, thank G-d, Patsonia was out of danger and on her way to a full recovery. Your newborn son, on the other hand, was in a vegetative state, and the doctors were not giving you much hope for his survival.

Three years later, your son, Menachem Mendel, whom you named after your “meshaleach”/sender, the late Lubavitcher Rebbe, has defied his doctors’ dire predictions. Even though his condition has remained more or less the same, and in spite of his 24/7 home-hospitalization, Menachem Mendel is still alive, and with your relentless yet tender commitment and affection, he continues to spark an astounding wave of actions of love, kindness, and goodness, within your community, and around the globe.

Today, this wave reached a crescendo. In honor of his third birthday and his first-haircut, you dedicated a Torah in his honor. I watched via zoom, with tears flowing from my eyes, how your many local fans, in your faraway city of Mar Del Plata, Argentina — where you lead the Jewish community with such devotion and conviction — danced with Menachem Mendel with the new Torah, spreading joy and light to all of your surroundings.

Oh, how I wish I had been there with you physically. Still and all, I was there with you spiritually, with my heart and soul, holding your new Torah, swaying in prayer and ecstasy, and virtually cutting a snippet of Menachem Mendel’s hair too.

A holocaust survivor once told me that “in the end, it’s not what happens to us that matters most – it’s what we choose to do with it.” You, Patsonia and Zalmi, heed the call of Moses (in Deuteronomy 30:19) every single day, as you “choose life so that you and your children may live.”

How you do it – I don’t know. But the impact you have had on me, my beloved wife, Esther, our children, and myriads of others, is infinite. You have taught us how to love our children unconditionally, and to live our lives with passion, meaning, and purpose — even when unfathomable challenges are imposed on us against our will. And by doing so, you have demonstrated to each and all that love is far mightier than bitterness, that hope is much greater than despair, and that light is undeniably stronger than darkness.

There’s a line in a song by Leonard Cohen that has inspired me in some bleak moments in my life. “Forget your perfect offering,” Cohen suggests. “There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.”
Thank you, Patsonia and Zalmi, and your children, Chana, Mussia, and Menachem Mendel — may he recover fully and speedily — for being that light.

May G-d continue to fortify you with unlimited strength and courage, and may all three of your children be fully healthy, and continue to bring you boundless joy and pride.

Finally, may your light continue to shine through and through – from Argentina to Arizona, from the chambers of your loving hearts to the avenues of our globe, and may it bring complete healing to your son, to all of G-d’s sick children, and to our broken world.

With endless love and admiration,

Your brother, Pinchas

PS – To all of my cherished readers: If Menachem Mendel’s story has touched you, please consider donating toward the dedication of the aforementioned Torah, in honor of Menachem Mendel and his recovery, by clicking here: www.charidy.com/cmp/toramdq By endowing a letter, word, or sentence for yourself, your children, your family members, or friends, it is if you have written your own Torah Scroll too. Thank you very much.

The Abrahams of history have forever shared one common denominator: they never stopped growing and impacting the world with good deeds and positive actions. No matter the challenge. No matter the circumstance. No matter the age. And this is what made them robustly alive, and truly great.

Rabbi Allouche

“What will you do now?”

I recall asking my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz, this question, some ten years ago. He had just turned 73 years old, and he had recently completed his monumental translation and commentary of the entire Talmud – a feat that no human being had achieved ever since Rashi, the medieval commentator of the Torah. 

His answer taught me volumes about life and living: “I have plans for the next 170 years of many, many things I want to achieve. Now… if “the Boss”, G-d, decides to take me elsewhere, I will oblige, but as long as I am here I have lots of things to do.” As we now know, during the next ten years, until his passing just over a year ago, he continued to teach, to inspire, and to fill our libraries with his books and commentaries on the entire canon of the Jewish library – the Bible, the Mishna, the Talmud, the Tanya, and Maimonides.

By the time Abraham was 75 years old, he too could have retired with much satisfaction. His resume, by then, was also impressive. He was a monotheist who stood up for his beliefs. He had transformed countless lives and had accumulated a massive following of fans and students.

But then G-d appears to him and asks him to leave everything behind, and “go to a place that I will show you.” No, not to Hawaii, or to his dream retirement home. But to a mysterious place, where he will have to continue to work tirelessly. What would you have done?

Many of us would have replied with a resounding “no.” But Abraham, like Rabbi Adin, was a great man, and he knew that as long as he was alive, he had to fulfill his purpose, and make a positive difference in our broken world.

So at the ripe age of 75, he jumped on his next task ahead. He took his revolution to a whole new level. He became the “father of many nations,” and he transformed the landscape of history.

Many of history’s giants have followed this model too. Some examples include Moses who was 80 years old when he became our nation’s leader. Rabbi Akiva was 64 when he was finally recognized as the most eminent scholar and leader of his time. And the Lubavitcher Rebbe was 49 years old when he assumed the mantle of leadership of the Chabad movement and of the Jewish people in 1951.

Indeed, the Abrahams of history have forever shared one common denominator: they never stopped growing and impacting the world with good deeds and positive actions. No matter the challenge. No matter the circumstance. No matter the age. And this is what made them robustly alive, and truly great.

The lesson is clear: regardless of our age, we too ought to prepare “for the next 170 years.” Let us set goals, especially in our spiritual journeys, for the next year.

Which books will we study? Which mitzvahs will we fulfill? Which Jewish values will we introduce to our families? Which act of goodness and kindness will we perform today, and tomorrow?

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This is Noach's lesson: He too couldn't save the whole world. He too could not dedicate the totality of his brain, the fullness of his heart, and the entirety of his pocket to embrace and impact all that he wanted. So he constructed an ark to preserve that which he could. And, at the end of the day, that ark, those minuscule efforts, eventually rebuilt our world.

Rabbi Allouche

“But, Rabbi, I just don’t have the time!”

If there was a list of the most used excuses, this one would surely be at the top of the list. 

I understand the logic. I can even sympathize with the reasoning. After all, life’s responsibilities fill our every day. There’s always so much to do. If we’re not overly immersed in our jobs and worrying over our bills, there’s always a garbage bag to take out, a dish to clean, and a broken car to repair.

Noah, our portion’s hero, was faced with similar challenges. The world around him was collapsing. Merciless storms were about to flood our planet and drown humanity. But Noah responded decisively: he built a huge ark that would hold and preserve small fractions of human and animal life. For twelve months, all of humanity was concentrated within that Ark, and when the flood ended, those few survivors came out of their ark and rebuilt our world.

We, too, are faced with “floods” that threaten to destroy all that is alive in our personal world. But we, too, can respond by constructing “arks” to hold and preserve the fractions of life that are important and precious to us. 

Nonetheless, at times, our effort seems pointless. Of a mind consumed by jobs, only a small amount of brainpower is left for a few minutes of Torah study. Of a heart agitated by anxieties, only a small corner is reserved for pure emotions of love and kindness. Of a pocket filled with bills and expenses, only a small percentage is left for tzedakah.

Yet, this is Noach’s lesson: He too couldn’t save the whole world. He too could not dedicate the totality of his brain, the fullness of his heart, and the entirety of his pocket to embrace and impact all that he wanted. So he constructed an ark to preserve that which he could. And, at the end of the day, that ark, those minuscule efforts, eventually rebuilt our world.

So, if you “don’t have the time,” that’s just fine. G-d, and our beloved Congregation Beth Tefillah, will take your “small arks”, your few minutes dedicated to a good cause, your pennies donated to charity, and your single Mitzvah performed to better your life and brighten our globe. 

Who knows? Those small arks may also eventually save our world and bring about its ultimate redemption. May it happen speedily. Amen. 

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And as long as the soul still resides in the body, as long as the breath of G-d replenishes our lives at every moment, one must make a positive difference in this world in spite of the many falls and challenges, with conviction and determination, and with more light, more love, and more peace.

Rabbi Allouche

What a dramatic opening!

Adam and Eve sin as they eat from the forbidden tree. Cain sins as he murders his own brother, Abel. And eventually, the entire human experience on earth fails, as we succumb to our worse inclinations: jealousy, promiscuity, thievery, and more.

But why does the Torah begin with so many failures? Why can’t the pages of G-d’s book open up with a smile?

The answer is telling. And it shares an invaluable lesson for life:

By opening His Torah with so many flops, G-d was teaching each of us that failure is an inevitable part of life on Earth. In the words of King Solomon (Ecclesiastes 7:20): “There is no righteous man who never sins.” The big question of life, however, is not whether we fail, or if we sin; the big question is whether we can find the courage and strength to rise up after we fall.

Unfortunately, many people slip into a downward spiral, after experiencing failure. Why? Because failure breeds despair. Despair can damage a person’s self-esteem. And a damaged self-esteem, in which a person ceases to believe in himself, brings about more and more failures.

But the founders of humanity acted differently. Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, but they snapped out of it, by dedicating themselves to building a family.  Cain commits one of the worse sins ever. But he immediately repents, marries, begets a child, and founds a city, naming it after his son, Chanoch. The human experience fails, and a devastating flood emerges. But the surviving family of Noach plants a vineyard and rebuilds the world.

Adam and Eve, Cain, and Noach, and his family, did not lock themselves in their bedroom for endless days after experiencing failure. They did not drink themselves to oblivion, nor did they fall into a state of debilitating depression. Instead, they went out and made a difference. They understood that they could never undo their past. In fact, they would actively repent for the rest of their life; but that didn’t stop any of them from doing the right thing. Because they understood, what King David proclaimed two millennia after them, that, “the righteous may fall seven times, but they will get up again. But one fall is enough to overthrow the wicked” (- Psalms 24:16). 

The lesson for all of us is vital: the reaction to destruction must be construction. The best answer to evil must be goodness. The only response to darkness must be light. And as long as the soul still resides in the body, as long as the breath of G-d replenishes our lives at every moment, one must make a positive difference in this world in spite of the many falls and challenges, with conviction and determination, and with more light, more love, and more peace.

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"You see, my dear students: The big question of life is not whether you can soar to the heavens. Almost anyone can do that. The real question is where you landed at the end? Sometimes you don't land anywhere. And then you are compelled to ask yourselves: is that what your great spiritual search was all about?!"

Rabbi Allouche

“I don’t know, really, if you’ve progressed this year,” my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, would tell us, his high school students, every year, before the grand summer vacation. 

“It’s really hard for me to judge that. And you surely cannot judge that yourself. So go home. You have parents and siblings. Ask your parents and siblings if you’ve become any better. Now, if they say, ‘you definitely became better,’ then it means you went the right way. But if they say that they do not notice any difference, perhaps you did not study well enough, or perhaps, it was the wrong thing to do to study all year long. If the latter is the case, please think about your journey and come see us before coming back next year.” 

He would then conclude his piercing words, with a stirring thought

“You see, my dear students: The big question of life is not whether you can soar to the heavens. Almost anyone can do that. The real question is where you landed at the end? Sometimes you don’t land anywhere. And then you are compelled to ask yourselves: is that what your great spiritual search was all about?!”

I am reminded of my mentor’s impassioned plea, as we exit the spiritual highs of Yom Kippur, in which we together “soared to the heavens.” The feeling of holiness and inspiration at our ever-growing Congregation Beth Tefillah was unparalleled. Over 800 members and friends united together in our three separate services, for our most meaningful and uplifting services.

In the words of one our attendees: “I have never in my life felt the true meaning of Yom Kippur, until I came to CBT yesterday.” 

Or in the words of yet another attendee: “Your most inspiring services changed me profoundly. I promise to become more involved Jewishly. I will begin with putting on Tefilin, at least twice a week.”

Friends, and as this last comment conveys, we too need to land back somewhere. For Judaism is not about bringing our planet earth and its inhabitants up to heavens. Rather, it is about bringing heaven down to earth, and creating an abode for G-d, consistently, every single day.

This is why G-d gave us the gift of Sukkot (coming up this Monday evening! – a full schedule will be sent out on Sunday morning): To bring the G-d that we connected to on Yom Kippur, down below, into our everyday life; to channel the intensity of our souls, into the movements of our body; to draw down the extraordinary Divinity of the heavens onto the ordinary earthiness of our world; To invite the majesty of G-d into our Sukkah, a temporary physical home of sticks and stones.

Will you please join me in this landing, as you so inspiringly joined me in our High Holiday take-off? 

When we ask ourselves, “Where were we on September 11,” we ought to ask: Where were we, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, on September 11? Where were our instincts and emotions on September 11? What did our instincts and emotions awaken in us? Did they rewire our perspective on the meaning — and vulnerability — of life? And did we change in any way?

Rabbi Allouche

September 11, 2001.

This date alone sends shivers down our spine. And the heart-wrenching memories of that fateful day are etched in the minds and hearts of all people who cherish life and liberty.

As we are about to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and as we honor the many heroes who sacrificed their lives to save so many innocent men and women, here are three humble lessons that will, hopefully, help transform our tears into triumph, and our pain into gain:

Lesson One: “Choose life!” (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Amidst the terror of this unfathomable act of terrorism, a fascinating juxtaposition appeared:

Here, at the World Trade Center, gathered thousands of freedom-loving people. There, a world apart, stood their callous murderer, determined to obliterate freedom, and spew evil, havoc, and destruction.
Although Moses commanded us to “choose life, so that you and your children may live,” (Deuteronomy, 30:19), they chose carnage and annihilation. Indeed, the sanctity and celebration of life that we cherish so deeply disturbs those who hate it so fervently.

We pray and hope that the United States Government and other world-powers will continue to do what they can to ensure that terrorism never prevails. But our response must be more personal; it must speak to the values that fill our souls. Where there is evil and darkness, we must “choose life,” and with actions that create goodness, kindness, and peace. For, it is not enough to focus on that which we are fighting against; we must also know that which we are fighting for.

This is 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 evil. But we can shape our world, by our actions — from prayer to charity, from repairing a broken relationship to lending a helping hand to the many who need us.

Lesson Two: “If we ever forget that we are One Nation Under G-d, then we will be a nation gone under.” (Ronald Reagan)

From the horrors of this day, a comforting and deeply encouraging scene emerged.

Suddenly, people from all backgrounds united as one. At that moment, we understood that what unites us — our Divine image with which we were created and the “certain unalienable rights, such as life, liberty, and happiness,” with which He endowed us — is so much greater than what divides us.

Sadly, our discourse ever since seems to have become more and more divisive and our unity has been shattered by slander, gossip, and partisan self-righteousness, to name a few. But it is not too late to change its current and restore our status as “one nation under God”. For example, instead of using terms such as “us” and “them,” let us use the word, “we.” And let us remember that we can, and perhaps, sometimes should disagree and battle ideas, dare we not become disagreeable and battle people.

Lesson Three: Life Is Too Precious To Let It Go To Waste:

It is an astounding fact.

If you’re around 25 years old and older, you probably remember exactly where you were on that dreadful day of September 11, 2001. Whether you were in New York or on the other side of the world, that moment in time stands frozen. But why? Why is this day, and that moment, etched in our memories?

Some may tell you it is because you lived a part of history. Others may say that it is because everyone who wasn’t there, feels as if their life has been saved.

The answer, I believe, is deeper:

September 11 did not just destroy two of the tallest towers of the outside world, but it also threatened the towers of our inner beings. Suddenly, life seemed so vulnerable. The achievements and ‘towers’ of our lives appeared so fragile. The creations and ‘buildings’ of our years on earth seemed so breakable.

And so, when we ask ourselves, “Where were we on September 11,” we ought to ask: Where were we, not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually, on September 11? Where were our instincts and emotions on September 11? What did our instincts and emotions awaken in us? Did they rewire our perspective on the meaning — and vulnerability — of life? And did we change in any way?

20 years have passed, but the same questions remain: Have we developed? Have we rebuilt our ruins with towers of goodness and kindness? 

The state of our nation, and our world, may have forever changed on September 11, 2001. But the direction of that change depends on you and me. Let us channel it toward acts of unity, goodness, and kindness, today, tomorrow, and forever. 

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Every year on Rosh Hashanah Jews everywhere flock to Synagogues, our spiritual vaccination centers, to immunize their soul against all sorts of spiritual viruses and maladies. The sound of the shofar that emanates from the depths of the heart, pierces our hearts and fills us with antibodies to ward off hatred, arrogance, slander, and a whole list of toxic traits foreign to our Divine soul.

Rabbi Allouche
In the past few weeks, we’ve been told that “it’s time for a booster!”

Although millions across the world have now been vaccinated against covid-19, it seems that the protection from this vaccine does not last forever.

The founder of the Chassidic movement, the saintly Baal Shem Tov, teaches that “we must learn a spiritual lesson from everything that we see and hear in this world, as our world below and the heavenly world above are one.”

Therefore, dare I suggest, that the High Holidays too are all about vaccines and boosters.

Every year on Rosh Hashanah Jews everywhere flock to Synagogues, our spiritual vaccination centers, to immunize their soul against all sorts of spiritual viruses and maladies. The sound of the shofar that emanates from the depths of the heart, pierces our hearts and fills us with antibodies to ward off hatred, arrogance, slander, and a whole list of toxic traits foreign to our Divine soul.

But there are also variants to these spiritual viruses. Every year, every place, and every circumstance, produces its own moral, spiritual, and emotional challenge. Consequently, the season continues with Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in which our compassionate Heavenly Father forgives and cleanses us fully. The season then culminates with a highly-recommended Sukkot/Simchat Torah Booster. Sitting in a sukkah in the embrace of G-d, and dancing in ecstasy with our children and our Torahs, fills us with joy and gratitude that eradicates all traces of venom that still linger, and elevates us to new heights. 

And so, on this Rosh Hashanah, as we welcome the New Year of 5782, I beg you: Take care of your bodies. But don’t forget to take care of your souls too.

This year, make a decision to grow Jewishly with one more Mitzvah. Take upon yourself to create an additional connection, to build a stronger bridge, between you – the real you – and G-d.

It could be anything: from wearing Tefillin every day, or more than you do now, to affixing Mezuzot on all your doorposts, to going to the Mikvah, to lighting Shabbat candles, to helping the needy, to visiting the sick. Any Mitzvah can, and will, enrich and empower you. And you never know; your mitzvah may carry a ripple-effect and bring about positive change not just to your world, but to our entire globe.

Shana Tova U’metuka – may Hashem’s blessings fill your life with His abundance this year, in all areas, at all levels.

Every moment of life - even the most vulnerable ones - ought to be savored. Every opportunity - even the most challenging of all - ought to be actualized. “For, in the end,” as Abraham Lincoln once said, “it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”

Rabbi Allouche

If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?

Would you spend it with family, and tell them how much you love them? Would you go check out as many boxes as possible from your bucket list?

For Moses, our great teacher, this question was very real. After all, Moses knew exactly when he was going to die. So, what did he do on his last day?

As this week’s portion reveals, Moses did not do anything extraordinary on his last day. Quite, the opposite, he continued to do exactly what he had been doing every day, for forty years, ever since he assumed the role of the Jewish nation’s leader: He taught his people the word of G-d, he begged them to follow G-d’s commandments, and he infused them with hope and courage for the future.  

Moses could have retreated and prepared to die. But, instead, he assumed the role of our teacher, with the same zest and passion as always. Why? Because Moses knew that as long as we are alive, we must grow, influence, make an impact and fulfill our purpose. Indeed, every moment of life – even the most vulnerable ones – ought to be savored. Every opportunity – even the most challenging of all – ought to be actualized. “For, in the end,” as Abraham Lincoln once said, “it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.”

Just three years before the passing of my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, I asked him if he is afraid of death. His answer was startling:

“I’ve never been afraid of death,” he revealed to me. “For I know that, ultimately, G-d is in charge of this world, and I am just a player in His Divine play. If He, the boss, decides that there is no need for my act anymore, I am ready to accept that.”

And he continued: “But I’ll tell you what I’m afraid of. I am afraid of life. I am afraid of letting the precious moments of life go by. I question myself, all the time, whether I am fulfilling my purpose to the best of my ability. And perhaps this is why I am not afraid of death. There’s an old Chassidic saying that says that ‘one who is concerned with life – and living it to its fullest potential – will not be concerned with death. For, when it will come, he will have lived a life filled with meaning and purpose.” 

As we together approach Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year of 5782, coming up this Monday evening until Wednesday evening (all welcome to CBT for our services!) – may we commit to living our lives as Moses did, and heed Hashem’s call to serve, to love, and to give, in every moment, at every place, with every person.

And let us set goals each and every day, especially in our Jewish journeys. Which Jewish topics will we study? Which mitzvahs will we achieve? Which Jewish values will we introduce to our families? Which act of goodness and kindness will we perform today, and tomorrow?

For thirty days prior to Rosh Hashanah, we pause, we reflect, and we strive to unearth our true, inner “I” that sometimes hides beneath the many masks we often wear. In our day and age - where so many of us are always trying to keep up with the neighbors, the Joneses, or the Kardashians - that is no easy task.

Rabbi Allouche

There’s a man in this picture (at the top of this column). Can you see him?

According to prominent psychologists, if you find the man in the picture in 3 seconds or less, then the right part of your brain is more developed than in the average person. (The right part of the brain is mainly in charge of spatial abilities, face recognition, processing music, and creativity.)

If you found the man in the picture in about 1 minute, the right part of your brain is of the average person.

If you needed more than 1 minute to find him, the right part of your brain is slow.

During this Hebrew month of Elul, we are encouraged to play a similar game. 

For thirty days prior to Rosh Hashanah, we pause, we reflect, and we strive to unearth our true, inner “I” that sometimes hides beneath the many masks we often wear. 

In our day and age – where so many of us are always trying to keep up with the neighbors, the Joneses, or the Karadashians –  that is no easy task. 

On Facebook, young and old alike fool themselves into believing that they have hundreds, if not thousands, of so-called friends. Moreover, in this illusionary world, they are able to connect and “like” celebrities and megastars as if they really have a meaningful relationship with them.

On Twitter, many are in a race to accumulate as many followers as possible, just to feel loved and valued. 

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

Yet, beneath and beyond all layers, lies our Divine soul, that dances like a flame, swaying and licking the air, seeking to tear free of its bodily wick and rise heavenward, toward its source, toward G-d.

I’m sure you’ve encountered this soul before. As it re-enters our body each and every day, it begs our attention and asks for recognition. And it pleads: “Allow me to express my Divine self. Let me do good, consistently, and become an ambassador of goodness on earth. And let me commit to adding a new Mitzvah to my daily life so that my flame can continue to grow and shine, today more than yesterday, and much less than tomorrow.”

And so, during this month, and in preparation for Rosh Hashanah, let us look at our inner selves, open our eyes, and discover our true Divine “I”. Let us re-commit to unleashing its endless potential, with acts of goodness and kindness. 

PS – If you are still looking for him, the man in the picture can be found on the bottom corner toward the left side of the picture. He is partially exposed with his right eye and his nose.