Thursday, August 27, 2009

Gilad Shalit

The past few days, I've been thinking, quit a bit, and preciousness, and about loss.

It's one of those weeks where I'm spending a lot of time with people who are facing, or remembering, issues which I can't imagine having to deal with. A terrible disease, one which might be fatal. A spouse, dealing with the same. A friend who lost a child. A friend with a child in a coma. It's one of the privileges of being a Rabbi that people trust you with these stories. That people, in some small way, bring you into their lives, through these stories.

Naturally, it can make a person pensive - not only about how lucky I am, or how fragile life is, but also about how to understand all of this tragedy (and the joys of life, as well). How to process it, and make some sense of the larger picture.

As I'm trying to figure that out, and probably how to turn that into a sermon for Friday night, I also came across this article, about Gilad Shalit. If you don't know, Shalit is an Israeli soldier, taken prisoner four years ago (my God, has it really been that long?). His parents have spent four years not knowing if he is alive or dead. Not knowing if they'll ever see him again, or if they'll ever be able to (God forbid) give him a proper funeral. David Seidmann, the author, writes:

I told Mr. Shalit that I feel at a loss; I want to do something but have no idea where to begin. We agreed to speak again after Shabbos and that perhaps over Shabbos an idea would enter my head.

And then it struck me. Moments after I hung up the phone with Noam Shalit, I saw my wife light the Shabbos candles and say the prayer on behalf of our children. It is a prayer that Jewish woman have been saying for generations. It asks G-d to bestow all that is good, fine, proper and healthy for our children, now and for the future.

Immediately after Shabbos concluded, I called Noam Shalit again. I proposed the idea that women all over the world, when they light Shabbos candles and say the prayer on behalf of their children, pause and think for one moment about Gilad, and then pause for another moment and think about his parents.


Noam Shalit told me that it was a wonderful idea, one that he would think appropriate, one that would provide comfort to the family. I began to share this idea with any and every rabbi I could find.

This Shabbat, as you're lighting candles, take a moment, and think of Gilad Shalit. And of his parents. Say a prayer for them. And say a prayer for all of the blessings you have in life, and all of the troubles you have, which might not be so bad.

Friday, August 21, 2009

A Philosophy of Torah

Cleaning up my office, I came across this lovely little teaching:

Rabbi Yehuda Amital was once asked to sum up his philosophy of Torah.  In response, he told this story:

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (also know as The Alter Rebbe, was once studying Torah in his room when he heard his infant grandson crying in his cradle.  The Rebbe closed his book, but went into the baby's room and soothed him back to sleep.  He then went into the adjoining room where he found his son, the baby's father, steeped in Torah study. The rebbe turned to his son in astonishment and asked, "why didn't you get up to pacify your crying son?"

The bewildered son looked up and answered, "I was so immersed in my study that I didn't even hear him cry."

The rebbe then declared, "if someone is studying Torah and fails to hear the crying of a baby, there is something very wrong with his learning."

Shabbat Shalom!

Friday, August 7, 2009


If you’d like to get a summary/interpretation of the weekly Torah portion, but in cartoon form, then check out G-dCast.

It’s Torah, only cuter.

Shabbat Shalom!