Wood-chopper’s Ball

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, April 1st Light Candles at 18:49 Shabbat, April 2nd, Shabbat Ends 20:06 Torah Portion: Shemini

This week we had the honor and pleasure to join our good friends, the Meurer Family in Israel for the Celebration of their son Noah's, and daughter Emma's Bar and Bat Mitzvah celebration. The celebration was truly moving and meaningful. May they enjoy true Jewish "Nachas" from them in good health and joy! Woodchopper's Ball What are you doing today? Celebrating your child’s Bar/Bat-Mitzvah? Bringing relief to a cancer patient? How about campaigning for Israel’s security? Delving into the wisdom of the Talmud? These are all cosmic opportunities for meaning, and they can bring deep joy to our days. But what if your day is....regular? What if you aren’t – at least today - on the ‘front lines’ of life’s special moments? What if you feel like a cog in life’s wheel, instead of the one driving the bus? How are YOU supposed to feel today? When we’re engaged in life’s beautiful experiences, it’s natural for us to feel warm inside. But when we’re in a support role, that spark doesn’t come as naturally. At a time like that, it’s important to recognize that life’s most important objective is our collective goal to brings Goodness to the world. And for that, even a support role is cosmically important. It’s about the goal, not personal gain. For example: I’m committed to helping my children grow, spiritually and physically. I admit that I’d also like some appreciation and credit from them; I’d like to bask in the fruits of my labor. But that’s not the objective; my kids’ benefit is. And if I can have even a supporting role in that, I’m happy. The same applies to life in general. In the Torah, G-d gave the Jews activities known as ‘Korbanot’, or (as the Hebrew etymology indicates) ‘exercises in drawing close [to G-d]’. Each offering represented – and effected - a particular aspect of bringing life closer to its destiny. But there was one common denominator: They were all burned on the Temple’s altar; each needed wood kindling. Jewish tradition attaches special significance to the Mitzvah of donating the wood, even though it was for OTHER PEOPLE’S offerings. Talmud also speaks with high praise about chopping the wood. Hmmm. Someone chopped the wood. Simple, unexciting wood, which would eventually be brought to the Temple and consecrated for someone else’s use on the altar. If you were the wood-chopper, would you find that moving? Real commitment to an objective (in this case a Holier world) means recognizing the beauty of every step toward that objective, even the seemingly unexciting steps, like wood-chopping. It also recognizes the beauty of facilitating other people’s holy moments, because they bring meaning to the world. For Wood-choppers with vision, life is a ball. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

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

Purim Wrap

Dear Friends,

Words cannot describe the feelings of excitement that follow this year's Purim Celebration. We feel surrounded by a warm community that is starting to feel more like a family. As the Purim Party was coming closer we realized how much goes into hosting a party in our own venue! Nothing prepared us for the wave of help and support we got, both for this event and for the future. We are embarking on a journey, making this new building into a home. This will be a journey we will be taking together. We feel it already! There is a wonderful 16th century commentary on Megillat Esther written by Rabbi Shlomo Ha-Levi Alkabetz, a learned Sephardic scholar. He was not only a famous sage and Kabbalist, he also composed the beautiful poem, Lecha Dodi, which we sing every Friday night. Rabbi Alkabetz asked an interesting question: Why is it that on Purim we have the unique mitzvah of giving gifts to friends? Let’s explore: We all know Haman was the quintessential anti-Semite. Yet even so, how did he manage to endanger the future of the Jewish People? The answer lies within the words he used to state his case to the king. He described the Jews as, ‘Am -echad mefuzar umeforad’, one nation that is scattered and divided. Instead of displaying unity, love and care for one another, the Jews were fragmented. Haman pointed out their vulnerability and this division created the possibility of a successful attack. Ironically, it was Haman's decree to slay the Jews that ultimately triggered reunification. Esther’s first instruction to Mordechai was to, "Go, gather all the Jews". She told him to bring the Jewish People together to pray and defend themselves. And, in the end, with a couple of miracles thrown in, Haman was defeated. This, Rabbi Alkabetz says, is the reason we send gifts to each other on Purim. It fosters feelings of closeness and care, strengthening the mitzvah to “love your neighbor as yourself,” establishing harmony throughout the Jewish People. The only way to defeat the evil ‘Hamans’ of history is to create strong bonds of love and friendship amongst Jews. When there are divisions, our enemies may have a window of opportunity to (G-d forbid) prevail. If we stand together as Jews, nobody can conquer us!

Thank you for standing together, together with all of us! It's going to be a journey well traveled!

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The Power of Pause

Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, March 11th Light Candles at 18:07 Shabbat, March 12th, Shabbat Ends 19:22 Torah Portion: Pekudei

The Power of Pause I try to keep these messages light and user-friendly. Translation: I assume many people will be reading this in middle of a busy day, and often on a mobile device. If I start traveling down deep theological paths, and insert a bunch of footnotes, many of you won’t read to the end. You’ll move on to the next e-mail or just get back to work. So I try to offer some on-the-go inspiration – and not wrinkle brows - with these notes. Because I think that’s what people want. Life is fast paced, and we appreciate getting a sprinkle of inspiration that we can absorb without breaking our stride. If I still have your attention, let’s take a few seconds to re-think that attitude. We can do better than on-the-fly inspiration. I imagine you’ve never grasped a deep concept, or understood a complicated deal, by skimming through a four-hundred word article. Real depth requires a pause. If I want to truly tap life’s richness, I need to periodically halt my personal runaway train, gather my consciousness, and soak in what’s at hand. There’s simply no other way. Call it mindfulness. Call it the Power of Now. To me, it’s all the same. We need take a deep breath, and apply ourselves to whatever’s in front of us with full consciousness. And I don’t think you get to full consciousness unless you tee-up with a conscious pause. On-the-go inspiration is good for refocusing. But it’s only the beginning. This week, I noticed an interesting nuance in a well-known Biblical verse. Isaiah, in chapter 64, (I know I threw in a footnote, but please stay with meJ) describes our ability to connect with G-d at a level so sublime that it transcends Paradise, “no eye has ever seen it.” To whom does G-d grant this deeply intimate connection? “G-d grants this to those who PAUSE for Him (Isaiah 64:3).” Status-quo-rattling events ‘give us pause.’ Attention-grabbing scenarios are external stimuli which create a result that we can – and should – generate of our own volition. We can choose to pause for important things. G-d is important. And G-d says that you are important. Today, and this hour, are important. So pause whatever you’re doing and apply yourself to appreciating the value of living in G-d’s world and doing the work of making this a brighter world. Pause and appreciate the cosmic beauty of now. You’ll open yourself to other-worldy possibilities. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

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

Stealth Super-Powers

Light Candles at 17:52 Shabbat, March 5th, Shabbat Ends 19:07 Torah Portion: Vayakhel

Stealth Super-Powers Fear and crisis can bring us an important recognition: We have potential that reaches beyond our normal limitations. Tapping it is only a question of motivation. And a loved one being threatened by a bear, or trapped by a car, can really motivate. But beyond these spontaneous spurts of our deeper potential, can we possibly tap this inner core on an average Thursday? For example: You’re exhausted after a day’s work, and all you want is a couch. You recognize that your family can use some quality time, but you simply have no strength. Or do you? Do you perhaps have a deeper reservoir of strength to tap? Is it possible to get past your ‘natural limitations’ to accomplish things you know are important, but don’t seem to have the internal wherewithal? It may feel totally counter-intuitive, but the answer is usually ‘Yes.’ Jewish spirituality tells us that we each have a potential for something called ‘Mesiras Nefesh’, which translates into ‘core (soul) commitment.’ When we truly recognize and feel a need, we can rise above our logical and physical limitations and rise to the occasion. Queen Esther, of the Purim saga, is our timeless model. As Queen, she wasn’t in personal danger. Nor was she witnessing a sudden calamity that made her spring into action. She understood, especially with the advice of her elder uncle Mordechai, that the Jews were facing a mortal enemy. Given her circumstances, there was little she could do without endangering her own life. She had every rational reason to wring her hands and say “I wish I could help.” But she dug deeper. She could not rest until she did everything in her power, and beyond her normal range of power, to save them. She succeeded then, and she’s been helping us succeed ever since. Would you like to do something G-dly but honestly ‘can’t find the time and energy’? Take a second to think of Queen Esther. And dig a little deeper. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

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

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

Seas Can Split

Shalom, Hi There Shabbat Candle Lighting Times for Moscow, Russia Friday, January 22nd Light Candles at 16:23 Shabbat, January 23rd, Shabbat Ends 17:45 Torah Portion: Beshalach

    Ever feel like there's nowhere to turn? Like you’re boxed in, with no way out? Imagine how the Jews felt as they came upon the impassable Sea of Reeds, while the murderous Egyptians closed in on them from the rear. This week's Torah reading describes the Jews' liberation from cruel Egyptian slavery, and how their former captors then set after them in hot pursuit. When the Jews came to the sea they were trapped. Some Jews advocated surrender, some resistance, some felt they should cast themselves into the sea rather than return to their cruel slave-masters. Some Jews just began to pray. G-d’s directive was to do none of the above. The instruction was “Keep moving!” The Jews were heading toward Mount Sinai, a very worthwhile destination. If they believed in their goal, and trusted in G-d, there was no need for other strategies; it wasn't even a time for prayer. They needed to forge ahead. True, the obstacles seemed insurmountable. They had reason for despair. So G-d taught them a critical lesson: When they put their heads down and soldiered on, armed with trust in G-d, a miracle happened. The sea split. And they were now finally, truly, free of the Egyptians. Leaving Egypt’s geographical boundaries had been only the beginning of their liberation. Crossing the sea meant finally escaping their captors for good. The Torah’s narratives are more than historical accounts; they are also our personal story. You and I need to read the Torah in our individual keys, and find direction for our respective, contemporary lives. The Exodus is our story. And here"s how: The Hebrew word for Egypt (mitzrayim) can also mean limitations and strictures (meitzarim in Hebrew). So, aside from its profound historical significance, the Exodus is a model for our own extrication from the mindsets, fears and attitudes that keep us trapped. You and I need to leave ‘Egypt’, i.e. transcend our personal hurdles, every day. But the narrative teaches that even leaving Egypt isn’t necessarily the ultimate freedom; Egypt can chase us. Even when we think we’ve gotten past a specific personal challenge, it may catch up with us again. We may feel trapped, and begin to accept that there really is no escaping this personal hang-up. So G-d tells us “keep moving” toward you Mount Sinai. Keep your eye on the prize and have faith in your loving G-d. Seas can split. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Yanky Klein

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