Every day ought to be treated as the most important day of the year. For 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, this cruel baron decided to show him a bit of mercy, and he said to him: “Look Jew, I am willing to grant you one day of freedom each year. I don’t care which day you choose. But remember, you only have one day a 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 to him. “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. For 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.

In this week’s portion, we read about the forty-two journeys of the Jewish people through the desert. The founder of the Chassidic movement, the Baal Shem Tov, compares these journeys to the various stages of life. Over a lifetime of experience, we each undertake “forty-two journeys,” forty-two self-transformations, before we reach “the holy land.”

His underlying message is poignant: Life in an upward journey, in which we must constantly strive to make very day better than yesterday. That is not to say that life doesn’t have any setbacks and regressions. Even in the desert there were stops. But these stops were themselves a part of the journey. Indeed, every setback and interruption, are parts of our learning and growth, as they too can spring us further and deeper, than ever before.

During a trip to Israel a few years ago, I paid visit to my old high-school Yeshiva, the prestigious Mekor Chaim High-School, founded by my mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. 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, ignite my soul.”

I can still hear them sing those poignant words: “whatever was- was, the most important thing is to start anew. Today.”

So, have you turned today into your life’s most important day yet to date?


But, deep inside, there exists another face. It stems from our very depth and it exposes our deepest vulnerabilities and strengths. This is the face of our inner self, and it cannot be fooled. If you would give yourself the chance to glance at this face, what would you find? Shame? Pain? Fear? Insecurity? A yearning for love? A quest for meaning?

Rabbi Allouche

It seems like FaceApp – the new app that can make your face look younger or older – has taken over our phones, and our lives.

To date, more than 150 million people have downloaded this app. Many of them, including numerous celebrities, have also posted their FaceApp images of how they may look like in a few decades.

But aside from the security concerns that have arisen concerning the origins of this app, I dare ask: Why have we become so obsessed with this app? Why this new craze?

Some psychologists have suggested that we love looking at FaceApp’s version of our old self because FaceApp only changes our faces. Our bodies and our posture remain young and strong. And so, when we look at the version of our old selves we are overcome with a soothing feeling and we say to ourselves: “Oh, getting old is not as bad as we thought… After all, we will still look pretty good in twenty years from now!”

Others think that our FaceApp obsession is reflective of our society’s ongoing pre-occupation with the selfish self. “This is just another way of taking a selfie,” a social critic wrote earlier this week. “But so long as we are so self-preoccupied, we will never be able to appreciate the blessing of selflessness and unity – a virtue that is, sadly, so lacking in our day and age.”

While many of these experts may have a point, I believe the reason is deeper.

FaceApp hit a sensitive chord because it relates — at least, partially — to an unavoidable truth: We each have many faces. We have a “young” face, an “old” face, a “happy” face, a “sad” face, and so on. But FaceApp does not reveal the entire truth. For these are all faces of our external self. They can, therefore, easily be tricked. Some band-aids, a little make-up, a FaceApp makeover, and abracadabra, all looks perfect and shining. Most of us wish these external faces were the only ones.

But, deep inside, there exists another face. It stems from our very depth and it exposes our deepest vulnerabilities and strengths. This is the face of our inner self, and it cannot be fooled. If you would give yourself the chance to glance at this face, what would you find? Shame? Pain? Fear? Insecurity? A yearning for love? A quest for meaning?

Of course, it is much more pleasant and comfortable to look at, and define ourselves by, our external face only. Thus, the obsession with FaceApp, selfies, and all sorts of other external-face exposures.

Alas, our inner face, which Kabbalists call “the Divine Soul” — is restless and it begs to be recognized, and, nurtured, too. And it yearns to serve its Creator, by doing good and actualizing its unique Divine purpose in our world.

In this week’s portion, we read that, “He (G-d) has not observed iniquity in Jacob; Nor has He seen trouble in Israel; G-d is with them, and the shout of a king is in them.”

This does not mean that Jacob and Israel do not have iniquities. But G-d does not “observe” them. And He certainly does not define His people by them, by their FaceApp appearances, and by any external face we may wear – young or old, mischievous or righteous. Instead, He prefers to focus on our inner face, on the “king” within us, and on its infinite opportunities to share its ‘shouts,’ its music, its light, and its goodness with its surroundings.

If that is G-d’s choice, shouldn’t it be ours too?


Indeed, sometimes, the cure for the many 'snakebites' of life, is to look upward. Sometimes, the best remedy for the plagues and challenges of life that are filled with menacing venoms, is to focus heavenward. And if we are then able to connect with, and devote ourselves to, our 'Father in heaven,' He too will be able to connect with, and devote ourselves to, and bring us His many blessings of healing and strength.

Rabbi Allouche

Have you taken on “the bottle-cap challenge” yet?

This new challenge, that has taken the world by storm, has participants attempting to unscrew a bottle cap without the use of hands, (and preferably with an acrobatic kick).

Many “celebrities” have attempted this challenge as well. Mariah Carey, the famed singer, successfully removed a bottle cap just with the help of her high-pitched voice. Shaquille O’Neal, the ex-NBA superstar, in his unique style, turned the challenge into an act. Instead of kicking the bottle-cap off the bottle, he kicked the person holding the bottle for him.

While this challenge is not of high interest to me, I still wonder: Why has this challenge, as opposed to many others, spread across the world so quickly? Is it because this challenge involves a particularly difficult task? Is it because we have developed a newfound love for bottles and bottle-caps? Interestingly, the answer may be found in this week’s portion.

There, we read about the many venomous snakes that bit the people of Israel in the desert. After Moses prayed their behalf, G-d offered him a solution (Numbers 21): “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten may look at it and live. So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone who was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake on the pole, lived.” (Perhaps, this is also the origin of the symbol of medicine with the two snakes called “Caduceus.”)

Pondering the meaning of this story, the Talmudic Sages ask: “But is the snake really capable of determining life and death?!” Their answer is surpassingly beautiful: “No, the snake does not have that power. Rather, when Israel would gaze upward and bind their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they would be healed; and if not, they would perish.”

Indeed, sometimes, the cure for the many ‘snakebites’ of life, is to look upward. Sometimes, the best remedy for the plagues and challenges of life that are filled with menacing venoms, is to focus heavenward. And if we are then able to connect with, and devote ourselves to, our ‘Father in heaven,’ He too will be able to connect with, and devote ourselves to, and bring us His many blessings of healing and strength.

When the late Lubavitcher Rebbe (whose 25th yahrzeit fell this past Shabbat) was just three years old, his mother found him playing a game with his friends. They were each trying to climb to a tree to its highest peak.

All the other children tried to climb the tree to no avail, but he her son had succeeded in just a few minutes. So she asked him, “How did you manage to climb that tree so quickly?” The young boy — who was later to become the beloved Lubavitcher Rebbe — responded wisely: “My friends looked down, so they became afraid of falling, but I looked up so I was never afraid!”

Indeed, when we look up, we are never afraid. When our eyes gaze upward, our hearts are filled with faith, and reassurance. And when our hands reach out to hold the hands of our heavenly co-captain, we may just discover that He is continuously helping us navigate our boat, called “life,” in the best of directions, even when, from time to time, we may lose control.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the 19th Century Philosopher once said that his aim as a philosopher is “to show the fly the way out of the fly-bottle.” And he explained: “The fly keeps banging its head against the glass in a vain attempt to get out. The more it tries, the more it fails, until it drops from exhaustion. The one thing it forgets to do is look to the sky.”

Perhaps, this is why our generation has become so obsessed with the bottle-cap challenge. For, like the fly, we too desire to come out of our life-bottles that are often filled with emotional, psychological and spiritual limitations. Our Divine souls yearn to cleave to the One Above, without any obstruction, and without any caps separating us from G-d.

But unlike the fly, we also know, consciously or subconsciously, that the only way to come out of these limitations is by aiming upward. And so, we attempt to kick the bottle-cap off our bottles, so that we can come out of our bottles, creating a perfect and seamless unity between Heaven and Earth.

This is the type of bottle-cap challenge we should all attempt. I thus nominate you and all human beings with this #BottleCapChallenge.

May G-d bless us all with immense success. Amen.

This piece was initially published online in the Times of Israel, HuffPost, and other publications.

This Shabbat, Jews worldwide will be marking the twenty-fifth anniversary since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, one of the most influential Jewish leaders of all times.

Much ink has been spilled on the Rebbe, and on his unparalleled influence. While most leaders only focus on their own constituents and following, the Rebbe was a leader of the world and all of humanity. And with his transcendent persona, the Rebbe successfully resuscitated a post-holocaust generation, by breathing into it new hope for a better future, and by arming it with a relentless mission to heal and rebuild our world with unconditional love.

But above all, the Rebbe changed the way we think, and thereby, act. Excuses that sought to stifle our growth, were disproved. Social norms that aimed to turn us into creatures of habits, were overturned. Preconceived notions that shackled our potential, were removed. And myths that were thought of as truths, were debunked.

Here is a sample of revolutionary lessons and ideas that the Rebbe gave our world:

1. No Such Thing As “Follower”:

In 1964, Israeli thinker, activist, and former Knesset member, Geulah Cohen, had a private audience with the Rebbe that lasted over two hours. A few days later, she described this meeting as life-changing.

In her words, “I have been in the company of wise of great learning and intelligence… But sitting opposite a true believer is quite a different matter. After having met a wise man, you remain the same as before — you have become neither less of a fool nor more of a sage. Not so with a believer. After having met him you are no longer the same… For the true believer believes in you as well.”

Similarly, Rabbi Sacks recently spoke about his life-altering meeting with the Rebbe, during his years as a student at Cambridge. “Here I was, a nobody from nowhere, and here was one of the greatest leaders in the Jewish world challenging me not to accept the situation [at Cambridge], but to change it,” Lord Sacks revealed. And he concluded, “That was when I realized what I have said many times since: That the world was wrong. When they thought that the most important fact about the Rebbe was that here was a man with thousands of followers, they missed the most important fact: That a good leader creates followers, but a great leader creates leaders.”

2. No Such Thing As “Overworked”:

My dear mentor, world-scholar, Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz, once shared with me that in his last communication with the Rebbe, he asked the Rebbe whether he should be slowing down, as his plate was over-flowingly full. At the time, Rabbi Steinsaltz was involved in three full time jobs: scholarly writing, outreach work in Russia, and a network of schools in Israel. The Rebbe’s reply to Rabbi Steinsaltz was typical: “Continue to do all these things and to do more things and work even harder.”

This was the Rebbe’s approach with every person he encountered. He was never satisfied with past deeds, as glorious as they may have been. Rather, he always challenged us to do more, to be more, each and every day. The Rebbe once quipped: “every living thing must grow!”

Why? Because he believed in us, and in our infinite potential. And he knew that as much as we have achieved yesterday, there is still so much more we can achieve today, and even more so, tomorrow.

As Rabbi Steinsaltz observed: the Rebbe wanted to change our very nature, from living as ordinary people with ordinary dealings, to becoming extraordinary people, with extraordinary achievement.”

3. No Such Thing As “Stuck”:

In the winter of 1967, a group of young ladies called the Lubavitcher Rebbe to ask him for a blessing. They were “stuck” at the Detroit Airport, on a Friday afternoon, and their flight home to New York had been canceled.

They spoke briefly with the Rebbe’s secretary, and after putting them on hold for a short while, he returned with a reply from the Rebbe: “The Rebbe doesn’t understand the word ‘stuck.’”

They tried to explain to him what the term “stuck” means, but the secretary interrupted them, saying: “The Rebbe knows what ‘stuck’ means. But the Rebbe says that a person is never stuck.”
They understood the Rebbe’s wise advice, and they rose to the occasion. Shortly thereafter, they ran around the airport, smiling at strangers, lending their support, and igniting souls with the light of Judaism.

The Rebbe’s words taught this group, and us all, that there is no such thing as ‘stuck.’ Indeed, every moment has a Divine call. Every place has a holy purpose. Every person has a vital role to play on the many stages of God’s world.

4. No Such Thing As “Disabled”:

Shortly after the Yom Kippur war of 1973, a group of “Disabled Veterans,” of the IDF, visited the Rebbe. Joseph Cabiliv — a veteran whose legs were amputated after his jeep hit a Syrian mine in the Golan Heights – was privy to this special meeting with the Rebbe, in which the Rebbe challenged them to see themselves not as “disabled,” but as “exceptional.”

Here is how Joseph chronicled this exceptional encounter with the Rebbe:

“The Rebbe passed between us, resting his glance on each one of us. From that terrible day on which I had woken without my legs in the Rambam Hospital, I have seen all sorts of things in the eyes of those who looked at me: pain, pity, revulsion, anger. But this was the first time in all those years that I encountered true empathy. With that glance that scarcely lasted a second and the faint smile on his lips, the Rebbe conveyed to me that he is with me-utterly and exclusively with me.

“The Rebbe then began to speak, after apologizing for his Ashkenazic-accented Hebrew. He spoke about our ‘disability,’ saying that he objected to the use of the term. ‘If a person has been deprived of a limb or a faculty,’ he told, ‘this itself indicates that G d has given him special powers to overcome the limitations this entails and to surpass the achievements of ordinary people. You are not “disabled” or “handicapped,” but exceptional and unique, as you possess potentials that the rest of us do not.

“‘I therefore suggest,’ he continued, adding with a smile ‘-of course it is none of my business, but Jews are famous for voicing opinions on matters that do not concern them-that you should no longer be called nechei Yisrael (“the disabled of Israel,” our designation in the Zahal bureaucracy) but metzuyanei Yisrael (“the exceptional of Israel”).’

Indeed, the Rebbe did not see “disabilities” in people. Rather, he chose to focus on their abilities. He never saw what we lacked physically. Instead, he saw what we possessed spiritually.

Imagine if we saw “disabled” people of all kinds, as the Rebbe saw them. Imagine if we saw our friends and neighbors, even the most “disabled” ones, as champions of the world. Imagine if we saw our fellow beings, even at their lowest state, and during their lowest hours, as beacons of mankind. Would our world then not become a better and happier place?

5. No Such Thing As “Retirement”:

Mrs. Chana Sharfstein, a noted author and educator, once visited the Rebbe, in honor of her son’s thirteenth Bar Mitzvah birthday.

“We had discussed everything we planned to, when the Rebbe surprised me by asking about my uncle, Rabbi Note Zuber of Roselle, New Jersey,” Mrs. Sharfstein recounted. She responded that “he was doing well, thank G d, and he had just retired.” Upon hearing these words, the Rebbe shook his head and said, “Retired, what does that mean?”

The Rebbe rejected the notion that people ought to “retire” and stop working. We may explore other vocations and channel our talents and experience into different avenues. But we cannot retire from life and from our Divine purpose to continue to make a difference in our world, each in our own way.

This gem of wisdom, perhaps also reveals the hidden ingredient behind the greatness of every giant of history: they never stopped growing. No matter the challenge. No matter the circumstance. No matter the age (- the Rebbe once quipped: “I am not as old as I am on my passport!”) And this is what made them robustly alive, and truly great.

6. No Such Thing As “Passivity”:

In 1974, the then Chief Rabbi of North Tel Aviv, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, journeyed to New York to visit the late Lubavitcher Rebbe and seek his advice and blessing.

During the course of their conversation, the Rebbe asked Rabbi Lau what was the mood “in the streets of Israel,” as people were just beginning to recover from the devastating 1973 Yom Kippur war in which close to 3,000 Israelis were killed, and over 9,000 were wounded.
Rabbi Lau responded that people are asking, “What will be?”

The Rebbe refused to hear these words. He grabbed Rabbi Lau’s arm and exclaimed, “Jews don’t ask: ‘What will be?’ Jews ask: ‘What are we going to do?”

This was the Rebbe’s approach to all of life’s tribulations. Passivity was not in his vocabulary. Inaction was never a legitimate response. The question of “what will be,” may belong to the passive and visionless being, roaming through life without a direction of purpose and meaning.

But the Rebbe believed in a different route. He asked not “what will be,” but “what are we going to do?” And with this question, he challenged Rabbi Lau, and us all, to become true leaders and difference-makers, who rise from the challenges of the past and the present, to march forward and upward into the opportunities of the future, with unending deeds of goodness and kindness.

Today, twenty-five years after the Rebbe’s passing, we are left with the Rebbe’s question of “what are we going to do,” ringing in our ears. For we each face challenges and moments of despair. But the Rebbe believed that actions are more powerful that sighs; that the acts of hope are mightier that feelings of despair; and that achievements that generate light are so much stronger than any type of darkness we may face.

Personally, I miss the Rebbe terribly.

I miss his penetrating gaze that set my soul ablaze. I miss his all-embracing smile that filled my being with warmth. I miss his unconditional love that made the small child that I was, feel like a giant of mankind. And I miss his words of advice that came from a rare combination of exceptional wisdom and sublime holiness. Sometimes I wonder how different our world would be today if the Rebbe was still physically with us.

But we must make up for his physical absence, with his spiritual presence in our own lives. And we ought to continue to learn from the Rebbe, his weltanschauung, and his ever-shining model, by becoming agents of goodness and ambassadors of healing in our broken world.

The Rebbe, as a leader par excellence, believed in each of us. It is now time we also believe in our deepest selves, and in our unique ability to change the world, and usher in a new era of lasting peace.