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Rabbi Deren's Blog

cut your to-do list down to zero

 This is a very busy time of the year for everybody, so I'm here to make things quick and easy for you:

Now that you got that all out of the way - it's time to talk about Rosh Hashanah, the day that we celebrate the creation of the world. Let me introduce you to the world. The world has many things. Including Jake. Who also has many things.

We're all Jake. And much of the time, "things" get in our way ... 

It wasn't like this when we started out - in life, in our career, in our marriage, in our home. When we started out, we saw the wonderful ideals that could be realized through this new endeavor ... we had a vision, goals, plans for great, beautiful and meaningful things to happen - "I'm going to change the world when I grow up! ... I will be the master of success in this business and really make a difference! ... I'm going to be the best spouse-parent-homemaker-breadwinner and create a really beautiful and healthy home for my family".

And then "things" get in the way.

Well, that's exactly what it was like when G-d created the world, when Adam and Eve were brought into it on this day 5776 years ago in order to make this planet a beautiful home for G-d and humanity.

And then "things'" got in the way... 

So once year, all of us - G-d included - pause to take a break. We go out into a field, away from the distractions of all those things. We reflect on that original day when we started out with all the great ideals in life shining in our eyes ... we resolve to commit more strongly to those ideals ... we restore our hope in ourselves, in all of humanity ... and in G-d Himself ...that this coming year will be a good one, a sweet one ... where those ideals WILL actually be realized and the world will be the beautiful place we want it to be.

Shana Tova to you and yours - from us and ours.

Much love and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Yossi and Maryashie



Sermon Chukat 5775


I'm sitting on the plane this week and they come around with the dinner cart. This tall, black flight attendant with curly hair looks at me, points and says "Kosher!" ... I smile. And then he says

אתה מדבר עברית? (You speak Hebrew?)

I did a double-take and said

 כן אני מדבר עברית, מאיפה אתה יודע עברית (Yes, I speak Hebrew - how do YOU know Hebrew?!)

He says  אני למדתי לפני הרבה שנים (I learned it a long time ago)

למה?!?! (Why??)

רציתי ללמוד את התנך במקור, מתוך הספרים עצמם, אז למדתי עברית (I wanted to study Bible straight from the source, from the original, so I taught myself Hebrew)

I was flabbergasted to say the least.

I said to him - 

מאיפה אתה (Where are you from?)

אני גר עכשיו בקולומביא אבל אני מהארלעם (I live now in Colombia, but I'm originally from Harlem)

We would've Farbrenged for the whole trip if it weren't for the rest of the passengers he had to serve.

But then it struck me - those good souls in the AME Church were gunned down right in the middle of a Bible study group. 

They take the Bible seriously!

There are a lot of lessons to be learned from that terrible tragedy, not the least of which is that these haters deserve the same fate as ISIS - total obliteration.

But we should also find inspiration from who these people were ... and what they were doing.

Why don't Jews take the Bible as seriously?

How many of us study Torah in this manner? Every day! If not at least once a week...

Yes, it's not easy. And the fact that Torah study is not easy is something that the Torah itself recognizes. In this week's Parsha.

זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל

דאמר ריש לקיש מנין שאין דברי תורה מתקיימין אלא במי שממית עצמו עליה שנאמר זאת התורה אדם כי ימות באהל

Torah endures ONLY by virtue of those who "kill" themselves over it...

What is in fact so hard about studying Torah? Why DOES it not come easy .... ?

The answer is possibly in a famous line about books that a certain author shared: Authors know that writing is not a difficult thing to do; it's the "sitting DOWN" to write, that is the difference between successful authors and those who never get around to fulfilling their "writing" aspirations.

A truth - which applies to OPENING the books as well. The difference between those who study Torah and those who do not, has nothing to do with wisdom, comprehension of Hebrew or even religiosity! It has all to do with the decision to simply JUST OPEN UP THE BOOK  .... once a day.

To those who already do that, G-d bless you. And to those who do not yet, just opening the book is more than half the battle. It's the entire battle! Because finding it HARD is exactly the way it is meant to be ... exactly the way the Torah ensures its own endurance throughout all the ages ...

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


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