reflections: Home, Sweet Home

B”H

Home, Sweet Home

While spending a few hours writing at my desk, I noticed that the battery charge level on my electronic device was below 10 percent; so, I left my kasha on the kitchen countertop, that I had prepared, for a brief interval between writing endeavors, and went to my travel backpack, where I keep everything that is essential to me. My backpack is a top loading pack with a drawstring, and, when I was reaching inside to find my charger with its cord, I saw that my double layered cotton mask was about to drop out of the bag. So, I quickly reached with my left hand to grab the mask, accidentally jabbing my right hand with the only fingernail, that I hadn’t pared well on the previous Wednesday.

Now, even as I type out these letters on the keyboard, forming words in front of my eyes on the page, I have a hermetically sealed latex free bandaid, wrapped around the part of my hand below the thumb. A constant visible reminder of what would not have been a concern to me five months ago. Yet, I know from a scientific animation in a documentary produced by the Epoch Times, about the origins of the coronavirus, how the virus enters the human body, unlocking the entrance to a human cell by binding to its receptor sites; and, I am repulsed to think about how easy it could be, within my imagination, for one germ to get into my very small open wound and change my life forever (G-d forbid).

So, instead of venturing out to the health food store, along the sidewalks of this coronavirus laden town, like all other towns and cities across the States, I decided to stay right at my desk, behind my screen, where I usually am virtually twenty-four seven. Perhaps, I am one of the few people who chooses to remain sheltering in place, despite the lessening of restrictions several weeks ago; and, the percentage of positive cases is up from 5% at the time the restrictions were still in place, to 12% in the state, since that time. Incidentally, the statistical scenario is similar for other states as well. Need I attempt to defend my voluntary hermitage with any other statistic? I have remained adamant, knowing that I am Biblically mandated to stay right where I am:


Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, And shut thy doors about thee; Hide thyself for a little moment, Until the indignation be overpast.

  • Isaiah 26:20, JPS 1917 Tanach

If everyone in America could be impacted by the realisation that G-d is sovereign, then we could all chill out, knowing that G-d is in charge, even of something as catastrophic as a global pandemic. And, His recommendation to all of us is to relax, until the plague passes from this earth. The verse is likened by rabbinical commentary to the experience of the Children of Israel, during their last night in Egypt, when the Angel of Death was wreaking havoc in the streets of the metropolis. They stayed inside their homes, until the precise time of their redemption. And, who knows whether the above mentioned verse could be rendered as a prophetic statement, also reaching across the generations to this very time?

Path of Kindness

B”H

Our proficiency as human beings is ultimately limited in comparison to the artistic rendering of Creation by G-d. Yet, many artists over the ages, as well as more contemporary artists, even photographers, and graphic artists have made the attempt, and continue to make a concerted effort to capture the essence of G-d’s creative expression. Additionally, all of us created beings should endeavor to imitate and internalize the qualities of G-d, in respect of our character, especially the thirteen attributes of mercy.

“And the L-RD passed by before him, and proclaimed: ‘The L-RD, the L-RD, G-d, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth; keeping mercy unto the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.”

– Exodus 34:6-7, JPS 1917 Tanach

By adhering to these attributes in our lives, the world will become a better place; personal changes, the ones shaped within ourselves, first influence the inner person, as well as one’s immediate surroundings, for example, family, friends, and community, before having an impact further outside that social and environmental milieu. The ripple effect, could permit even one act of kindness to make waves that effect others in ways that we may never know.

The Thirteen Attributes of Mercy, mentioned in scripture, are part of the liturgy for the Holy Days, requesting G-d’s forgiveness, as well as His mercy upon us. However, the prayer of the Thirteen Attributes has been added to the daily services, being performed three times a day at the Western Wall, specifically, to combat the plague of the corona virus. This prayer is considered to be a segulah – a remedy in times of dire need. Incidentally, this prayer is traditionally only said at the time of a minyan – quorum of ten.

Yet, these actual characteristics of mercy may be reflected in everyone’s life who takes the time to make the effort to imitate G-d with respect to His qualities. This may be done through forgiveness of others, a calm forebearance towards those who we find hard to bear, and mercy towards those whom we may feel do not deserve to be shown kindness. When we forgive and forget other people’s wrongs, as well as perceived slights against our character, we permit change to occur in ourselves and others for the good. A bruised ego, set aside, makes for the potential to overlook other’s faults.

“It is the discretion of a man to be slow to anger, and it is his glory to pass over a transgression.”

– Proverbs 19:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

Opportunity Prevails

B”H

Lev Emes: Heart of Truth (special edition)

“Let us reason together.” – Isaiah 1 :18

Monday May 18, 2020

As the pandemic garners attention, storing up its legacy across the ensuing months, the future must contain a seedling of hope, growing in the distant future. Yet, perhaps, the horizon is closer to our framework of expectation than we might think; therefore, we should allow ourselves some respite, stop holding onto anxieties and fears, and look forward to a time when we can admit to ourselves that this cocoon that enwraps us for the sake of reflection and rebirth, will soon give way to a butterfly, gently learning how to fly for the first time.

The darkness will lift, when we turn our hearts towards G-d. This is irrespective of the challenges that we face every day; in other words, He will be there within the midst of our nisyanos (trials). Although we may be limited in regard to past activities, restricted by necessary precautions, and isolated to some degree, the time is opportune for in depth reflection upon our lives. In this manner, we can move past our internal limitations, through self examination, and progressive awareness of our character flaws. We may surpass our former selves, by making a change for the better.

Lev Emes

Reflections: Inner Contentment

B”H

April 22, 2020 (25 Nissan 5780)

“For He concealeth me in His pavilion in the day of evil; He hideth me in the covert of His tent; He lifteth me up upon a rock.”

– Psalm 27:5, JPS 1917 Tanach

In troubled times, a troubled spirit will lead to personal unrest. Yet, an inner contentedness (yes, there is such a word) may be born out of a well placed trust in H’Shem, for every moment of one’s entire life. Surely, this is an ideal statement; yet, the actuality may be approached through constant endurance of life’s travails, despite the hardships that may have the potential to overwhelm us. With His help, strength, and emunah (faith) in us, we will prevail over the darkness of our lives, especially during the pandemic.

“Be strong and of good courage, fear not.”

“For the L-rd thy G-d, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

– Deuteronomy 31:6

Special Edition: The Heart of Truth

B”H

5 Nissan 5780

March 30, 2020

Lev Emes: The Heart of Truth

“Let us reason together.”

– Isaiah 1:18, JPS 1917 Tanach

Three days after Purim, a national emergency was declared in the United States in response to the growing threat of the Corona virus. Two weeks later, the U.S. had the highest number of cases out of all other countries in the world, surpassing both China and Italy. This is a plague that is spreading exponentially, despite any false hope being instilled by those who are too optimistic; it is a false optimism. In the time of the first Temple period in Israel there were many institutional prophets who were favored by the king; yet, they only prophesied what sounded good for the benefit of Israel. The true prophets, like Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel spoke the the unadulterated truths that the king and the people did not want to hear. The prophets of the king’s court were false in their words. “The prophets prophesy in the service of falsehood” (Jeremiah 5:3). The verse continues, “what then will you do in the end thereof?”

When optimism prevails over the factual evidence of science in the battle against the Corona virus, a false hope ensues. Yet, as the Bible shows, people would rather hear good news that is false, than bad news that is true. In the time of Isaiah, Israel was warned of the dire consequences of their sinful ways, inasmuch that Jerusalem’s destruction was at hand; yet, the people refused to listen. It is important to learn from the mistakes of our ancestors. Theirs and our optimism must be viewed as a human failure to be realistic in the face of danger. They, as well as us would much rather go on with our normal lives as much as possible, without concern for the immediate consequences, that will ensue as a result of our irresponsibility.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What will be the end thereof, when there is no end in sight in the immediate future? A Corona virus study and report from the Imperial College in London predicts that a twelve to eighteen month lockdown may be necessary, dependent on finding a vaccine. Until that time, serious restrictive measures would need to remain in place, in order to diminish the spread of the virus. Various news sources have made reference to this study, noting that both the U.K. and the U.S. are basing their policies on this report. “Optimistic projections about life returning to normal and the economy getting back on track appear to be unrealistic in light of this model” (Times of Israel). We are in this for the long haul, and should be buckling up for a roller coaster ride that will be no source of amusement.

daily meditation: Uplifting Others

“And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed.”

– Exodus 17:11, JPS 1917 Tanach

During the war with Amalek, with Joshua at the helm, Moshe stood on a hill and prayed. How did he pray? He lifted up his hands; actually, he held the staff above his head for hours upon hours. So much of a burden was this that two men, Aaron and Hur “stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady, until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:12).

Amalek was weakened, because of the divine effort made on the part of Moshe, combined with the actual battle wherein Joshua led the Children of Israel. Yet, Aaron and Hur also deserve credit, inasmuch that they supported Moshe as he prayed to H’Shem. One can also imagine the people, seeing Moshe on the mountain, continuously lifting “the staff of G-d” (Exodus 17:9) above his head, gathering strength from this inspiring show of encouragement.

The people on the front line of this battle were supplemented in their war against Amalek by the continuous prayer of Moshe. This serves as an example to us; for many are battling against this modern day plague of Corona virus, that can even be likened to Amalek. For the inhumanity of Amalek manifested in their attack upon the most vulnerable of the population, who were as stragglers at the rear of the procession from camp to camp.

Therefore, our heartfelt prayers as well as our contributions in other ways may serve as behind the scenes support in this battle against a plague that mostly inflicts serious injury to the elderly, as well as those with preexistent medical conditions. Yet, recent statistics show that even those between 20 and 54 are being seriously afflicted by Corona virus. It is time to pray, heartfelt prayer to H’Shem, until the sun sets on this plague, when it is banished from the world.

“Be Thou exalted, O L-RD, in Thy strength; so will we sing and praise Thy power.”

– Psalm 21:13

after Shabbat: G-d’s Sovereignty

B”H

Motzei Shabbos shiur for Vayikra 5780

“Let me fall now into the hand of the L-RD, for very great are His mercies; and let me not fall into the hand of man.”

– 1 Chronicles 21:12, JPS 1917 Tanach

In parashas Ki Tisa, a census is taken wherein each person gave a half shekel as an atonement for his soul. The half shekel is described as a ransom for the soul, so that there will not be a plague when the census is taken (Exodus 30:12). The ransom guarantees that there will be no plague, as a result of the collective sins of Israel.

Commentary explains that because at the time of a census, wherein each man is counted, it is as if every man is also scrutinized in regard to his moral status. Inasmuch that deficiencies in thought, speech, and behavior may always be found upon such scrutiny, the ransom of a half shekel is necessary for atonement.

At the time of King David, a census was taken, by way of his directive; however, this displeased H’Shem, so a message was given to David to choose one of three consequences. Rather than be subject to famine, or his foes, David exclaimed that he would prefer to “fall into the hand of the L-RD” (see above).

Thus, G-d sent a plague throughout Israel. He then sent a destroying angel to enact a plague upon Jerusalem, until H’Shem decided out of His mercy to spare Jerusalem from destruction. David and the elders repented, saying, “let Thy hand, I pray Thee, O L-RD my G-d, be against me, and against my father’s house; but not against Thy people, that they should be plagued” (1 Chronicles 21:17).

David’s trust in H’Shem, despite the fact that H’Shem sent the plague, exemplifies the trust of Job, the pious gentile who was inflicted by so much misfortune and physical malaise. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him” (Job 13:15). Today, in light of the Corona virus, our trust in H’Shem will be tested. Regardless of the spread of this modern day plague throughout the world, acknowledging G-d’s sovereignty over our lives is of the upmost importance.