Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, February 26th Light Candles at 17:37 Shabbat, February 27th, Shabbat Ends 18:53 Torah Portion: Ki Tisa

Don't Worry. Be Happy. Remember that expression? It sounds a bit simplistic. We all have real problems and stresses, so why should we accept a blanket “don’t worry”? Why shouldn't we? Are we supposed to detach ourselves from reality, fooling ourselves into thinking real issues don’t exist? King Solomon, in his Book of Proverbs (Mishlei 15:15), advises us that “one with a good heart is always rejoicing.” What does that mean in practical terms? The Talmud explains that when you develop a broad perspective of life you become happier, because your worries don’t own you. What qualifies as a broad perspective? Everyone has problems. Everyone also has blessings. If you’re reading this, you’re obviously alive and have some level of eyesight and cognition. And I’ll guess that your blessings don’t stop there. At the same time, human nature is such that regular blessings often become part of life’s woodwork. They’re barely noticed and thus remain un-celebrated. A broad perspective of life is one that consciously takes in your TRUE reality, including your everyday blessings. It’s a genuine snapshot of your life because it includes all the variables, not just the problems. And that breadth of vision makes a huge difference. When you're faced with a problem, it can take up your entire visual field. It feels like your challenge is the only thing in your life, because it psychologically eclipses everything else. If a problem is an elephant taking up all the room in your life, how can you not worry? But what if you see your life as a mosaic of blessings and stresses? What if you feel the gratitude and joy of your blessings and see your stresses in their accurate context? The problems are less likely to own you, because you recognize that they’re just a [small] piece of your life; they don’t deserve your entire attention. The recognition of our blessing gives us more emotional bandwidth, enabling us to better absorb – and address – our problems. And it makes for happier people. People who happen to have problems. A Jewish leap year (like the present year), has an extra month. There are two months of Adar, and we're presently in Adar 1. Jewish tradition teaches that Adar is the happiest month(s) of the year, a time when we're best positioned for a happy attitude. But it takes internal re-positioning. Think broadly. Be Happy. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM

The Power of a [Half-]Shekel

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, February 19th Light Candles at 17:22 Shabbat, February 20th, Shabbat Ends 18:39 Torah Portion: Tetzaveh

The Power of a [Half-]Shekel Money is an incredible tool. It gives you power; it broadens your horizon of possibilities. At some level, the money in your pocket can buy you pleasure and prestige. It can give you peace of mind and security for the future. The dollar is so mighty because it represents so much of what you want, so much of what you’d like. Your life, and maybe even your self-image, is rolled up in that dollar. Now let’s back it up a bit. How did you get that money? Imagine that you’ve worked very hard, taking risks, beating off threats, putting in long hours to earn the money you now possess. In this sense, the money represents your hard work, the lifeblood you’ve invested in earning a living. In truth, these dollars are more than currency: They embody yesterday’s struggle and tomorrow’s pleasure. With that in mind, we can appreciate the immense beauty of giving charity. When someone gives money - THEIR money - to a greater need, they are parting with something very deep, with an embodiment of their toil and their pleasure. They are giving of themselves to a greater need, and by doing so they elevate their entire lives as represented by the money. But why? Why would anyone willingly give their money away to someone else? The answer is that charitable people recognize that they are part of a greater whole. When someone realizes “what I need is only half the picture, and the other half is what I’m needed FOR”, life’s equation changes. My assets don’t only represent my pursuits in life; they represent my responsibility to life. That’s why we call charitable giving ‘Tzedakah’ in Hebrew. ‘Tzedaka’ means justice, because generosity reflects a mindset of responsibility to the world. In the Torah, G-d tells each person to give a ‘half-Shekel’ to the communal fund. The Shekel was silver coinage, each weighing 20 ‘gerahs’ (a Biblical weight measurement) of silver; if you do the math, a ‘half-shekel’ was obviously 10 ‘gerahs’. Why couldn’t the Torah just tell each person to give 10 ‘gerahs’? Why the emphasis on ‘halfness’? The Torah is driving home our point. When we recognize our own ‘halfness’, we’ll be ready to give ourselves whole-heartedly to our neighbors’ needs. The half-Shekel makes the giver whole. Tzedaka. What a concept. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM

The Great Race

Shalom, Hi There Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, February 5th Light Candles at 16:52 Shabbat, February 6th, Shabbat Ends 18:11 Torah Portion: Mishpatim

Election season always fascinates me. Right now, I see candidates in New Hampshire who are living, breathing, eating and sleeping the election. These people want to win the prize of high office, and there’s probably nothing else on their minds. It’s all about the race. Putting aside – for now - their motives for seeking high office, I find the singular focus fascinating. Imagine a deep-seated goal commanding the driver’s seat of your day’s words and actions, from the moment you wake up until night time, when you settle into an objective-laced dream state. Is your day driven by a singular vision? Do we measure our words, our behaviors, our choice of foods etc, by how they affect the day's all-encompassing objective? Or do we flit from task to task, pursuing some halfheartedly and some enthusiastically, but without an over-arching drive to our lives. Jewish spirituality teaches us about soul dynamics. It delves into the psycho-spiritual layers of the human personality to explore the deeper layers of what makes us tick, to understand our perceptions, feelings and responses. At your soul's core is your elemental G-dly identity, an intrinsic oneness with your Creator. Oneness is your soul bedrock. And oneness isn’t just describing unity between two parties, it’s describing a state of consciousness. It’s depicting a sublime level of soul awareness, where one experiences a singular commitment to life. At one’s most primal, sub-conscious level, one is consumed with the drive for a meaningful life, which in turn generates oneness with G-d and oneness with self. So look at the model of candidates excitedly using their days – beginning to end - to further their respective goals. And then imagine how our lives might change if we found that kind of commitment to making today matter, beginning to end. We’re racing against ourselves. And each day, each hour, we can win our own ‘meaningful life primary’, by quieting life distractions and finding our best selves. And the only voter you need to convince is you. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein  

This email is In Loving memory of my dear father R' Yerachmiel Binyamin Halevi ben R, Menachem Klein OBM