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The Superbowl Grind

February 17, 2024 – 9:42 pm | Comments Off on The Superbowl Grind82 views

Every year, the world gears up for the Superbowl, and even people who don’t follow football take an interest. Somehow, the NFL has captured the imagination of the masses; the show, the glitz, the contest, and the party combine to make it an entertaining evening.
The fans see the final product. …

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A Path to Victory

February 10, 2024 – 10:02 pm | Comments Off on A Path to Victory

A story about the path to victory has recently circulated on social media: A mother asked her son, a soldier in Tzahal returning home on leave from Gaza, “What is the first thing you plan to do when you get home. He replied: “Hang a picture of the Bet Hamikdash—the ancient Temple that will be rebuilt when Mashiach comes—in my living room.”

“Really, not a shower or your favorite food,” she asked.

“You don’t understand,” he replied. “There isn’t a home, government office, or school in Gaza that doesn’t have a picture of the Al Aqsa Mosque.”

To them, this is a religious war. It has always been so. In 1929, they massacred Jews in Israel because of Al-Aqsa and they are still at it today. It is time that the Jewish people wake up and realize that this is a religious war and that Jerusalem and our Temple Mount are at the core of the conflict. It’s time we focus on rebuilding the Bet Hamikdash. That is the true victory of this war.

But how can our focus on the Bet Hamikdah create a path to victory in Gaza?

The Inner War
It all begins with the inner war, but to understand that let’s think about the Bet Hamikdash. The Torah tells us, “Build for me a sanctuary, and I will dwell in them.”[1] It does not say I will dwell in it; it says I will dwell in them. This means that the first place G-d seeks to dwell is within us—every single Jew.

The Jewish life quest is to find our inner Mikdash—sanctuary. Who resides in my heart and mind? Are my mind and heart residences for G-d or for me? That depends on my thoughts and feelings. If I am hung up on my desires, obsessions, resentments, jealousies, avarice, and goals, I reside in my heart. If I am thinking about how to make another buck and how to gain another click or like, I reside in my mind. If I am thinking thoughts that G-d wants me to think and want things that G-d wants me to want, G-d resides in my mind and heart. Then I am a Mikdash. A holy sanctuary for G-d.

Who comes to bed with me at night? If I take along a novel, catch up on my social media feed, or watch a movie on my smartphone, I reside in my bed. If I review the day that passed with a mind toward making tomorrow an even better day for G-d, or listen to a meaningful minute on my smartphone, G-d resides in my bed.

The same is true of my home. Who resides in it? Is it my home, or does it belong to G-d? We might not realize it, but our identity and core values are usually on display in our homes. When guests enter, they can usually tell what the residents of the home are into. What kind of art hangs on the walls, what kind of music is piped through the Bluetooth Speakers, and what kind of books are on the shelf? These tell our visitors what we are all about.

Does our home boast the things we enjoy doing or the things we value for G-d? Is the music in the home Jewish music? Do we have Jewish books in our library? Does every door in our home have a mezuzah? Are there tzedakah boxes in our home, is there one in every room? Are the Shabbat candles sticks on display? Is our Jewishness on display in the home or our personal interests? Which would our guests see before their eyes as they enter, and which would they need to hunt down in our closets?

Most hotel rooms (used to) have a bible in the nightstand. Is there a Bible in your nightstand? Is it only in your nightstand? So, the question is this: where do you stash G-d’s presence, is He on display all over the house, or is He hidden in your nightstand? Is your entire home a mikdash, or just the drawer near your bed?

No one is perfect. Most people would not want you to discover what they keep in their nightstands or under their beds. But if we have such secrets, it is much better that they are stashed under the bed while G-d resides in the rest of the home, rather than making the entire home about personal interests and stashing G-d under the bed. Right?

The Path to Victory
King David wrote, “And He abandoned the tabernacle of Shiloh, a tent He made within humanity.”[2] When the mikdash of wood and stone was destroyed, G-d transferred His holy presence to us. Ever since He waits for us to invite Him in. To make a home for Him in our minds, hearts, and homes.

When G-d destroyed the Bet Hamikdash in Israel, He transferred His holy presence to where Torah is studied.[3] The way to invite G-d in is to take at least several minutes each day to study Torah. When we take time out of our day to study G-d’s thoughts (as discussed at length in last week’s essay), we literally make space for G-d in our minds, hearts, homes, and schedules. We create a mikdash for Him.

When we each make a home for G-d in our hearts, when we transform our homes, places of business or work, our social watering holes, and our minds and hearts into sanctuaries for G-d, we bring G-d back into the world. At that time, He will rebuild the Bet Hamikdash in Jerusalem, and we will win the war. This, my dear friends, is the path to victory.

Do you want to make a path to victory in Israel and to peace around the world, including the Ukraine? Stop telling others what they should do and start doing what you should do. Make a mikdash in your home; make this a religious war. This is the path to victory. G-d assures us that victory will follow.

Remember that the Tabernacle was built in the desert after our ancestors worshipped the Golden Calf. They thought they had forfeited any chance to make a mikdash for G-d, but G-d told them to begin in their hearts. When they would change paths and make space for G-d in their hearts and minds, He would come and be present. They would build a Tabernacle, and He would reside within it and them.

Says the soldier to his mom, In Gaza, we are fighting a war, but I need you to make a path to victory at home. The first thing I will do is hang a picture of the Bet Hamikdah in my living room to remind you and everyone around you how to pave our path to victory.

Don’t be afraid of the high bar this task sets. We are not alone. Whenever we embark on the path of self-improvement, G-d stands by to help.[4] We don’t have to make this home for G-d by ourselves. We don’t need to pave this path to victory on our own. We have a powerful partner Who stands at our side. He inspires us, encourages us, and empowers us. With His help, we will coast along our path to victory at home, in Israel, and throughout the world. Amen. [5]

[1] Exodus 25:8.

[2] Psalms 78:60.

[3] Talmud, Berachos 8a.

[4] Talmud, Yuma 38b.

[5] This essay is based on Toras Moshe (Alshich) on Exodus 25:8.

path to victory

Time for Torah

February 3, 2024 – 9:09 pm | Comments Off on Time for Torah
time for torah

Mishpatim: Time for Torah
The morning after our ancestors arrived at Sinai, Moses presented G-d’s proposal to appoint them His precious treasure, a kingdom of ministers, and a holy nation. Their reply: “All that G-d said, we will do.”[1]
Two days later, Moses told them that G-d would issue the Ten Commandments …

The Lightkeeper

January 27, 2024 – 8:35 pm | Comments Off on The Lightkeeper

Boston Light, the first lighthouse to be built in what would become the United States was also the last lighthouse to have an official keeper. Sally Snowman stepped down from the role as the world slipped into 2024.


The Secret Alef

January 16, 2024 – 2:03 pm | Comments Off on The Secret Alef

The secret alef is the mystery of this week’s Torah portion. Alef is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Hebrew letters also serve as numbers. Thus, alef is one; it represents G-d, who exists alone. He is one, and there is no other. By that, we mean not only …

Distance Strengthens the Bond

January 6, 2024 – 7:43 pm | Comments Off on Distance Strengthens the Bond
distance strengthens the relationship

Last week we talked about surviving in exile by finding meaning in it. This week, I want to ask a question. Finding meaning in the exile is lovely, but what good does it do if our connection to G-d is compromised? Scattered worldwide, we lose our cohesion and ability to …

A Father’s Happiness

December 30, 2023 – 9:30 pm | Comments Off on A Father’s Happiness

Vayechi: A Father’s Happiness
If you needed a thousand dollars to pay your bills, would you get down on your knees and beg someone for help? Would you stand on the street with a tin cup and beg for alms?
Most of us would not demean ourselves that way for money. Money …

How We Survived

December 30, 2023 – 9:16 pm | Comments Off on How We Survived

Shemot: How We Survived
When we read about our bondage in Egypt, we can’t help but wonder how we survived. I don’t just mean how we survived physically, but how we survived emotionally. How did we rise from slavery in Egypt to become the most fabled nation in history? Why did …

Where Do You Belong?

December 16, 2023 – 11:34 pm | Comments Off on Where Do You Belong?

Where do you belong? Where is home for you? Is home where your body resides or where your soul wants to be? As Jews, we are only at home in a holy land. Yet, most Jews live in the diaspora all over the world. So, for those of us who …

Living is Giving

December 11, 2023 – 9:38 pm | Comments Off on Living is Giving
living is giving

Living is giving is one of the themes of this week’s Torah portion. Joseph rose to prominence in Egypt because of his ability to interpret Pharoh’s dreams. He accurately predicted a seven-year period of plenty when all harvests would be bountiful. The Middle East would enter a phase of incalculable …