Quid Pro Quo

My Thoughts On Quid Pro Quo

Sermons I will never give #2

These days the news if saturated with the term quid pro quo. Was there a pro quo? We all know that there was a quid.  So let’s take a moment to analyze this.

I get it, there are people in all camps with all kinds of opinions. Some feel that He has been at it too long, and it is time to get Him out of here, and if there was only a pro quo, then we could be done with Him once and for all.

Others, feel quite the opposite. They feel that this is their Man! There was no pro quo so leave Him alone. Look at yourself they say, when you are pointing a finger at someone else, you are point three fingers right at yourself.  In fact, you should really be thanking Him for all that He has done for you!

Others, land somewhere in the middle, and they want to take everything on case by case basis. Don’t judge the Man, judge the actions. replica watches

Now, try this on for size. What if we were in the hot seat, and the question of “was there a pro quo” was for a quid that gave us? Feels very different if we are in that seat. Huh?!

Is it only bad for there to be a quid pro quo if it someone else? Someone in power? Maybe quid pro quo is actually a good thing?  Shouldn’t there be a bit of tit for tat? Shouldn’t I have to give to get, and get to give?

Listen, starting Sunday night, Rosh Hashanah, we are going to be meeting Him, and I hope that there is whole lot more quo than quid. You see, I for one know that I do not deserve nearly as much quo that I want and am praying for given the amount of quid I gave. I really do need to pick up my game and be doing a lot more quid-ing this year.

What about you? Do you think He/Him – Hashem of course – (who did you think I was talking about?)  has given you more in return for what you gave him this year?

Something to think about.

Shana Tova

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Don’t Worry About the Disappearing Jews

Sermons I will never give #1.

Don’t worry about the disappearing Jews.

As a Rabbi, this is the season where you do some serious soul searching. You see the numbers of your Shul’s membership, wax and wane. You see the level of Jewish interest in your community rise and fall and, at times, not reach the level of participation rise to where you think it ought to be.

You discuss with colleagues about sermon ideas, and wonder if you are going too deep, and content rich, where you risk putting the crowd to sleep, or are going too shallow and not having enough faith (pun intended) in your audience that they can handle more.

You ask yourself, am I inspiring the crowds to find their best Jewish self, or am I chasing them away.

Why does it appear that day two or Rosh Hashanah has almost disappeared, a day that was sacred even with the so-called 3 day a year Jews? Why do people send kids to religious school, but then not pull them from school to attend services?

What else can we do to engage today’s Jewish generation? We have already cut so many corners, that its starting to look less and less like the original Judaism?

The Pew Research poll of a few years ago, painted a bleak picture of the outlook of non-orthodox Judaism. Are we to believe the “professional” studies and throw in the towel?

Will our Shuls and schools be shuttered in 25 years, to be turned into condos sold to the highest bidder?

It is easy to feel melancholy and hopeless about the future of Judaism if you look at it via the myopic lenses of today.

Is there hope?

Of course there is. It doesn’t absolve us of doing what we can, to convince, bribe, hoodwink those we know to get to Shul, go to Religious school or Jewish Day School, improve in their overall Jewish practices, but the fact is, it is not the worst its ever been. In fact, it may be better than its ever been.

Case and point.

Rewind a few year, like to the year 539 BCE, in the days of Ezra the leader and Nechemiah the prophet, the two leaders of the Jewish people of their time. They led the return of much of the Jewish people back to Jerusalem to rebuild the destroyed Temple.

You’d think they were operating in an environment of a spiritual revolution like in the spiritually heightened 60’s. In fact, it was a time of such extreme desertion from Judaism, intermarriage was at an all time high, assimilation at a point that the prophets needed to exhort the people to leave (in some cases even leaving their families behind ) and restart their lives in Jerusalem.

(Even more starling, according to Yeshiva University Historian Maurice Lamm, there was a time in history when there may have been as few as 10,000 identifiable Jews!)

Compared to that, today we live in near biblical times. While suburban and even big city Jewry may be struggling, there are still yeshivas and Shuls across the globe that are expanding and growing to numbers never seen before in history.

Despite the extreme desertion from mainstream of Judaism, with the help of of the prophets and Ezra’s inspiration, he instigated a revolution of return, where people left their sinful ways, and ultimately rebuilt the Temple on the basis of the Torah Law, as it was.

From there it flourished and expanded and spawned rebirth to the point that it was transformed into one of the brighter times of our Jewish people.

I always refer to this era when the going of Judaism appears to be rough. It’s been rough before and from there it has gone through good metamorphosis and back from the brink to some of the brightest times.

So, to the naysayers, be they internal or external. This is not a time for despair. It is a time for hope and renewal.

As long as there are Shuls and people in them, it is a good day. There are many Ezra and Nechemia’s out there to lead the genesis of the next rebirth of suburban Judaism. They my be the folks who show up early and sit on the front row, or they can be the people who stand in the back and schmooze.

They are there, and that itself is reason for hope and optimism.

Shana Tova and Happy New Year.

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Nachas Vs Nachos

Nachas vs. Nachos

I like nachas. Of course I like nachas, who doesn’t? But I like more than the experience of Nachas, I also like the word nachas. I write it, say it, bless people that they should have it. In letters I always close with it, “you should have nachas” etc. etc.

The funny thing is that my spell checker doesn’t seem to care for it. As a matter of fact it has its own constant wish that every single time I wish nachas it wishes for its secret desire. It wishes for nachos. Just a difference of one letter but it really makes a world of difference. I want nachas it wants nachos.

What is nachas? If you don’t know then I can help you with a general definition but it won’t do the word true justice. The mainstream dictionaries don’t have a translation. The online Wikipedia research considers it not to be English but rather Yinglish and meaning (נחת) — pride (usage: I have naches from you). So it is Jewish pride. When one gets/gives a sense of joy from/to a relative, usually a parent or grandparent for something they’ve done or accomplished.

It has a lot of similarities to nachos, in the sense that they both make you feel good, they fill you up etc. However, unlike nachos, you can never have too much nachas. It is like “wonder” bread, or even better like the beer, it fills you up and never lets you down.

So, I wonder, why is my computer bent on nachos when I want nachas?

[This column didn’t start out with the intention to be funny or witty or an experiment of the English language, however, let’s see where this leads us.]

As the great Baal Shem Tov taught, everything in life is there to teach us a lesson and ultimately bring us closer to G-d, so I asked myself, what am I to learn from my computers constant peppering me with a choice between nachos and nachas?

We are ending the holy month of Elul, the 30 day preparation period before the high holy days. Where each moment counts and is an opportunity to delve deep within ourselves and find aspects of our character or behavior that needs repair. From the Kabbalistic perspective the last 12 days prior to Rosh Hashanah (that began this past Wednesday) is actually so precious that one can repair a month in a day. I.e. the 18th of Elul corresponds to the Hebrew Month of Tishre and the 19th to Cheshvon etc., so if utilized properly one can genuinely get huge amount accomplished in a very short space of time.

If this is indeed so, perhaps my computer’s friendly reminder is in effect asking me to make a choice; Do you want to give your Father in heaven nachas, true joy, or do you want to give yourself temporal pleasure (nachos), the choice is yours.

The funny thing is that even when I answer the computers question regarding whether I want to use that word, it then asks me do you “really” want to use that word, it’s not in our dictionary, and I have to say yes, yet again, to really affirm how I feel. Perhaps this is G-d’s system of letting us know that giving nachas isn’t easy.

The only way to remove the constant asking of the question “are you sure you meant nachas and not nachos?” is by “adding it to our permanent dictionary.

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