Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Talk nicely to others...

In the ethics of our fathers it teaches:
Shimon (the son of Rabban Gamaliel) said; “All my days I grew up amongst the Sages, and I never found anything better for the body than silence".

Rabbi Yehudah wanted to teach his students to be very careful how they spoke to one another.

What did he do?

He called his cooks and told them to prepare a big meal for everyone, at which the main dish would be tongue.

Now the tongue of a cow is very tough. When the cow is alive, she uses her tongue to eat all kinds of sharp, pointy grasses, full of thorns and thistles.

To cook tongue properly, you first have to soak it a long time, and then cook it for many hours until it gets soft.

Rabbi Yehudah had his cooks make some of the tongue properly, soft and tender. The rest he left half-cooked. It was very tough and hard.

"Which pieces would you have want, The soft ones or the tough hard ones?,
He asked of his students. Of course, they all wanted the soft tasty pieces of meat.

“Learn your lesson carefully,” said Rabbi Yehudah to them. “Nobody here wanted the tough, hard tongue. Everybody wanted the soft tender pieces. It’s just the same when you speak to others. Remember, a soft tongue is the best. Always use gentle words and kind speech. And if someone is upset with you, do not answer in angry tones. Remember what Shlomo HaMelech said, 'A gentle answer turns away anger.'"

Push your 'blanket' to others....

“Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?" Asked Rabbi Finkel of a group of American businessman. He called on one guy, who didn’t know what to say, he mumbled something like, “We will never, ever forget…" And the rabbi completely dismissed him. Another guy offered another answer, he said - “We will never again be a victim or bystander."

The rabbi said, “You guys just don’t get it. Okay, gentlemen, let me tell you the essence of the human spirit.

“As you know, during the Holocaust, the people were transported in the worst possible, inhumane way by railcar. “After hours and hours in this inhumane corral with no light, no bathroom, cold, they arrived at the camps. The doors were swung wide open, and they were blinded by the light. Men were separated from women, mothers from daughters, fathers from sons. They went off to the bunkers to sleep.

“As they went into the area to sleep, only one person was given a blanket for every six. The person who received the blanket, when he went to bed, had to decide, ‘Am I going to push the blanket to the five other people who did not get one, or am I going to pull it toward myself to stay warm?’”

And Rabbi Finkel said, “It was during this defining moment that we learned the power of the human spirit, because we pushed the blanket to five others.”

And with that, he stood up and said, “Take your blanket. i.e. your riches, and take it back to America and push it to five other people.”

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


"And G-d said, 'Let there be light.' And there was light" (Genesis 1:3)

Light has always been the metaphor for all forms of revelation. We speak of "G-dly light," the "Divine light," etc.

As physical light brightens our path so we don't stumble over obstacles, so the light of G-dliness, our spiritual awareness, helps us avoid the pitfalls on the journey of life. Light represents truth, eternal values, the spiritual which transcends the mundane.

A story is told of a wealthy man who had three sons. As he was uncertain as to which son he should entrust with the management of his business, he devised a test. He took his three sons to an empty room and said to each of them, "Fill this room as best as you are able."

The first son called in bulldozers, and workmen with shovels and wheelbarrows and they got mightily busy. By the end of the day the room was filled, floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with earth.

The second son was more of an accountant type, so he had no shortage of boxes of files, archives and records and so it didn't take long and the room was filled from floor to ceiling, wall to wall, with paper.

The room was cleared and the third son was given his turn. He seemed very relaxed and didn't appear to be gathering or collecting anything at all with which to fill the room. He waited until nightfall and then invited his father and the family to join him at the room. Slowly, he opened the door. The room was absolutely pitch black.. He took a candle out of his pocket, lit it and suddenly the room was filled with light.

He got the job.

Some people fill their homes with earthiness -- with lots of physical objects and possessions.

Others are into paper -- money, stocks, bonds, etc.

The truly wise son understands that the emptiness of life needs light. Torah is light. Shabbat candles illuminate and make Jewish homes radiant with light. G-dly truths and the eternal values of our heritage fill our homes and families with the guiding light to help us.

As we are about to begin a new Jewish year, may we all be blessed to take the candle of G-d and with it fill our lives and illuminate our homes with that which is good, kind, holy and honorable. Amen.