Stuck – Getting Out of Ourselves

I recently watched a YouTube (not sure how it came to my attention) of a fellow who tried to commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge.

It was a sad story of a fellow who was struggling with a deep depression and he describes how all he wanted was for the pain to end.

He took a bus to the bridge, and described how no one, not even the driver or fellow passengers cared how miserable he was, no one even asked him if he was ok. He was hoping someone would just acknowledge him, or ask him how he was doing, but alas, everyone was busy with their own lives.

The moment he leaped off the bridge, he continued, “all I wanted to do was live.” Well he did live. When he was fished out of the water by the Coast Guard, they told him how lucky he was, despite his completely broken body. “We fish out some 60-70 bodies a year, and they are all dead. You are the first one I’ve ever pulled out who was alive. GO LIVE! You have a lot to live for.

This fellow turned his life around and is now a motivational speaker and encourages people to find what they DO have to live for. He also encourages people look around them, and see the people next to them. If they seem agitated, ask them how they are doing.


Last night, I was in BIG Y picking up drinks and other supplies for this weeks Shabbat Dinner. There was a fellow behind me on the line hopping from foot to foot, looking agitated and sad. Red and tearing eyes, and seemed out of sorts.

I saw that he had one item and I had a whole conveyor belt of stuff and offered him to cut the line ahead of me. After refusing a few times he thanked me and did so.

As he was fumbling for his payment, he still seemed so sad, so I asked him if everything was OK. He kind of half nodded and cried a bit harder.
I said, “hey, can I help? I am a rabbi, I don’t know if you are even Jewish, but I do help people, perhaps I can help?”
He walked over to me, shook my hand, and said, “pray for me rabbi, just pray for me”


He left the store, and I wondered what the end of the story was.
Was he so down on his luck that perhaps, like in the YouTube, I may have saved his life?
Was just in the midst of a bad break-up and this was a non-event? Who knows? I certainly would never know the end of the story? I thought that was end of it, and hurried to our Chabad House to give my Torah class before I was late.
Well, I got home from class later last night and the following email was waiting for me.

Hello Rabbi Nechemia, My name is xxxx, and I was the guy purchasing flowers at Big Y tonight. I found this email on google and wanted to reach out and thank you again. There is no doubt I had a hard day.I spent most of the day with my mother at the hospital. She is currently battling cancer and has been going through chemo treatments since October.Today was hard for her and she was sad and crying for a lot of the visit. Most of my energy was spent trying to keep her positive and happy.After I left the hospital my first stop was Big Y to buy flowers. The flowers I purchased were for my girlfriend and her mother. 9 years ago today my girlfriend lost her father to cancer. From what she’s told me about him, and stories I’ve heard from family and friends, he was a kind man who went out of his way to do nice things for people, even if he didn’t know them. When you offered to let me go in front of you, as well as offered to help I could tell you truly meant it. It was a pretty special moment. So that you know I’m not in need of help, but your offer and kind deed to a stranger was much appreciated and made my day a lot better.
Thank you
xxx xxxx
P.s I think I have the right Rabbi.
So, you never know. Just ask… Sometimes, you will save a physical life, another time you may just help a struggling fellow human being having a difficult day, and sometimes you may be asked to mind your own business.
The reality is we are (self) absorbed with our own lives, our own problems, and our own to-do lists. Life is busier than ever before and there just isn’t space for extra things on our plate.

The fact of the matter is, despite apps like InBoxZero and other things meant to give us more time, there never is enough time. So the endless to do list will remain without a few check marks.

However, if we are so stuck in ourselves that we cannot see another, and try to help, we will miss out on those once in a lifetime opportunities to make a difference forever.

Blog post 22/52 Photo Credits – Huffington Post

Seeing From The Other Side

I am standing tall in my place, but I am chilly and dark. I see all those around me hustling about, in their fancy clothing passing by me as if I don’t exist. I wonder about my value, and my worth to them. To myself. I am truly unsure if I matter at all. I stretch myself as tall as I can get my 3 inch wax figure to go.

And then, it all comes to a halt. I hear the mother summoning her young daughters, “it’s time to light.” The pitter patter grows louder as a small group of angelic faces gather around me.

I see them take a little toothpick with a bit of red and strike it on a box, and suddenly there is a small flame at its end. Woah, it is getting close to me now, why are they bringing that blinding light so close to my head?

I am scared by that light, but as it nears me, I am also intrigued by the warmth it seems to be offering. I am not sure what will happen if it touches me, I don’t know if it will hurt, but I am kind of hoping they will touch me with that fire-light. Life has been dull and cold until now. This may be the change I have been looking for?

I don’t have to wait long, as that flame was brought to my head. They lit my little wisp of hair at my top, and for a moment it flared up as a bright flame, but then it settled down to a lazy rocking flame as my head was warmed by this calm and comfortable light.

I hear the mother uttering soft prayers with her girls, after waving her hands softly. It almost seemed as if she was beckoning me to bring that light and warmth that she had just given me, back to her and her family.

I am honored to be part of this sweet ritual that this family is doing, but that light and warmth that I now possess is starting to eat me up. Literally.  For the first time in my life, from when I was a baby, in box with so many other candle babies, I clearly matter.

All that time, wondering what I am, who I am, what is my purpose and do I matter or make a difference, has finally come to an end. I clearly do matter, and clearly do make a difference. I am able to warm others as I am warming myself. I can provide light to a dark room, I matter. I am an influencer.

As the house lights start to go out after a watching a festive meal of food and song and prayer. I am frolicking happily, feeling good about my being.

The house around me silences as the household retires to their beds, and couches, reading and sleeping. That nagging feeling I had earlier has returned. I’m disappearing. All this giving has started to diminish me as well. Earlier I was a large candlestick, now I am barely a quarter my size.

Some of my siblings have finished their journey and have started to disappear altogether, ending their life with a small wisp of black smoke, a final cough, as they went to their eternal rest.

Did my sacrifice that gave light and warmth, warrant my eventual demise? Large tears of wax of now flowing freely as my existence starts to fade. Was this my calling in life? To be a “one trick pony.” To have one show, and then have my act retired?

Then from the distance I heard a gentle voice. I heard that woman of the house softly tell her husband, that it was a beautiful Shabbat meal. That everything was perfect, and the light and warmth that me and my siblings provided will be a warm memory that she will cherish forever.

It was then that I realized, that in fulfilling my destiny to light up that home, I didn’t cease to exist, I actually began existing. All my history in a box, and even in a candle holder, were all part of my time as the walking dead. I was present but I didn’t exist.

Tonight, for the first time in my existence, I actually lived. I actually mattered. I actually made a difference.

And in so doing, I didn’t disappear, I actually began. While this particular light I provided may need to be brought in by my siblings next week, my light did not stop existing. The happiness and warmth, the light and love, the inspiration and joy that I brought is beyond time and space. Now that it is in this world. It won’t (can’t) ever leave.

Thank you pretty mother and girls. Thank you for taking me out of my boring box, and making me matter.

Blog 21/52

Photo Credits

Do the clothing really make the man? Nah

(Older blog from a few years ago, edited) There is an old expression, “the clothing makes the man (person).” Google attributes this to Mark Twain, regardless, I beg to differ.

Oh yes, on a very basic level, if you dressed like a slob you will be perceived as being a slob, and if you are dressed in a nice suit and tie, clean, neat and perfect, you are associated with success, being organized etc. (At best I’d concede that the clothing makes the already good person look better.)

That said, I think the person makes the person more than their clothes.

As parents on the relentless journey of raising a family we spend enormous amounts of time and money getting clothing for our children. Clothes that fit properly (and are then outgrown in what seems like minutes) and look good on our children, but still, it is not the clothing that make the man/kid.

Every morning at my home begins with the daily rush of trying to get out of our house by 7am so we can sit in only moderate traffic vs. heavy traffic. (What is less than 20 miles can often take longer than an hour and change if things don’t go right.) Part of that morning rush is the ongoing battle of getting the kids dressed. The older ones, Thank Gd can do this job on their own (wasn’t sure that day would ever arrive) but the younger ones need some help. (Side bar, why they need to kick and fight you on this is totally beyond me, but I digress.)

Recently, one of our boys, and now copying him is his younger brother, began a new phenomenon; complaints about what he will be wearing. Now, I can’t remember life at 6 or 7, but I am pretty confident that if my mother laid it out for me, it would be sufficient. However, the most recent complaint was that it was “not cool enough.”

I don’t know what cool means to a child, however, apparently peer pressure and the like are starting younger. Then again, when I was a kid there was no such thing as a computer and smart phones – Thank Gd -, so everything is different from what it once was.

But to my point; When I hear from the teachers at school, that my kid left his lunch at home and his siblings all gladly ponied up something from their lunch box to make him whole, that to me is what a mentch looks like. That’s cool. When I hear a story about a child of a family that I tutor that was “sneaking” extra snacks in her lunch to hand to a child from a less affluent family in her class, that to me is a what a mentch looks like. That’s cool.

When I hear stories of one of my older boys, reading to their younger sibling, whispering, lets be quiet so mommy can sleep a little longer (this is at 5am), that is what a mentch looks like. That’s what cool looks like. So if the shirt is a bit tight, and the pants a bit rumpled, so be it. I will take the former over the latter, any day of the week. 

Of course there are times when being a dressed like mentch is out of place, like when you are shoveling snow, and there are times when being dressed down in the shmates is also out of place like when you are at a business meeting. (I pulled up to the house the other day to see my kids shoveling snow in a tee shirt…oy.)

Indeed in this week’s Torah portion, where much of the discussion is about the clothing worn by the priests and high priests in the Temple, it is very specific. So much so, it would make a fashion magazine editor blush by its nuance. Now of course, like the “Royals” in England, our Priests are our representatives to Gd so we can’t let them go into the service looking plain and ordinary, so we have strict guidelines how they must dress.

That said, I suspect that while the Torah put rules and regs on how the priests and high priests were to dress, it put just as large a premium on how they acted and if they were a mentch.

Blog 20/52

Yes, you do you have something to be happy about!

Yes, you do you have something to be happy about!

We are told by the code of Jewish law, that when the month of Adar enters (which it did on Tuesday and Wednesday) we are to increase in joy.

The problem is how can you mandate a feeling? What if I don’t feel happy? What if I don’t have anything to be happy about? How can you expect me to increase in joy if life isn’t joyful? What if I have many problems and I am unable to increase in my joy?

The answer to that question, might depend on your perspective. Literally.

Let me explain in a Jewish way. A question. Is truth arbitrary? The answer is (also very Jewish) It depends. It depends on whose truth we are talking about. What does that mean you might ask, it either is true or isn’t, it’s black or white, it can’t be both.

Wrong, it depends.

Fundamentally the common mindset; “what is your truth”, ie. that truth is whatever you make it to be is not correct or accurate according to Torah.

However, to my knowledge there is no Mitzvah to “tell the truth”. (Please correct me if you know otherwise.) There is a Mitzvah (in last week’s Torah reading) “midvar sheker tirchak – distance yourself from falsehood”, in other words don’t lie. But, not lying is not the same is telling the truth.

Why would the Torah not have a Mitzvah to tell the truth?

I think the answer lies in the question above, there is a dimension of truth that is dependent on the perspective of the beholder.

When it comes to our own internal truth, there are layers and layers. Today’s truth is false tomorrow, and tomorrow’s truth is false today.

When it comes to external truths, eg. the sky being blue, the grass green, the earth round, these are things that there isn’t space for “your truth”. But when it comes to your own self awareness and self knowledge, the more you know the more you are in touch with your truth.

What you know about yourself today is today’s truth, but once you learn more about yourself (tomorrow’s truth), what you know today is false in comparison. And so as we grow we peel away the external false layers and keep accessing deeper layers getting us closer and closer to our truth.

One will journey this road an entire lifetime and still be peeling away layers.


(It is interesting to note that the next verse in the Torah after “distance yourself from falsehood” is the Torah’s instruction about not taking bribe.

Why shouldn’t you take a bribe? The obvious answer is because it is dishonest, it is a perversion of justice. However, that is not the reason the Torah forbids taking a bribe.

The Torah says, “don’t take bribe, because bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and makes crooked the words of the righteous”.

The Torah is telling us something fascinating. The concern with taking a bribe is not that one will tell a lie, because the Torah just told us a verse earlier not to lie. The issue with bribe is much more nocuous. The bribe taking messes with our subjective truth-o-meter. The issue is that our mind is susceptible to thinking that we are being truthful about a situation when in fact we are being dishonest. The shift in our thinking is a result of the bribe we have taken. Once we have taken the money we are now compelled to argue in favor of the person who has bribed us.

Our self love is the bribe we take each day. It is the bribe of self love that doesn’t allow us to look more deeply at ourselves and find our deeper truth, tomorrow’s truth today.

We can wait for tomorrow and/or life’s experiences to learn a new truth, or we can have a good spouse, mentor or friend who will help us see ourselves for our own inner truth.

This then is the deeper meaning of the prohibition of not taking a bribe, a deeper understanding as to why there is no specific mitzvah of telling the truth and an understanding of truth from the Torah’s perspective.)


As it relates to happiness, your happiness will depend which truth  you want to adopt. If you want to put on your myopic lenses, and see only today’s truth, then indeed it is true.  Life may be very hard right now, I am going through so much stuff how can you expect me, in fact command me, to be happy?

However, if you can, and I suggest this is what the Code of Jewish Law is expecting of us, to get in touch with tomorrows truth, then you can, will and must be happy. From the vantage point of tomorrow, today will indeed be great. I just can’t see it yet.

Hind sight is 20/20 they say. Perhaps, this is what is being asked of us. Be happy now that Adar has entered, because I, Gd, am giving you a special gift, the power to get in touch with your deeper truth. In that truth, happiness is attainable to all.

Blog 19/52

Picture google.images