When a Rabbi Goes Into Politics

Jan 12th, 2018-Volume 6, Issue 12 – 25th of Teves, 5778

Parshas Va’eira

What would you tell me to do if I wanted to run for office?

Let’s shoot for something small, say for example I wanted to become president of the United States in 2020. Where would I begin? Perhaps by hosting a reality show (joke)?

Or, more traditionally, I’d volunteer to help with someone’s campaign, or running for city council would be a reasonable start. Perhaps guerrilla marketing strategies so people will know who I am, recognize and associate my name with the party, my platform and my positions.

Let’s pause this train of thought for a moment and turn to an area which, in the minds of some, may draw parallels. About a month ago a Torah scholar of note passed away. His funeral had hundreds of thousands of attendees (some estimates range up to 500,000!) His name was Rabbi Aharon Yehuda Leib Shteinman zt”l. My question is: How did Rabbi Shteinman come to be regarded as one of the Gedolei Hador (one of the preeminent leaders of Torah Judaism)? What strategies did he use to market himself to the masses? Was he getting tips from Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet or Bill Gates?

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Moses, the Circus and the Lesson of the Clown Cars

Jan 5th, 2018-Volume 6, Issue 11 – 18th of Teves, 5778

Parshas Shemos

 

Ever been to the circus? From the tightrope walkers to the jugglers, there are endless attractions to engage the audience. I’ll never forget the first (and maybe last?) time I attended the circus as a kid. The thing that stuck with me the most was the clown car. If you have never seen it before, it’s rather striking. A small car pulls up into the big top, and clown after clown proceed to get out of the car. After doing a bit of research, I discovered that the rehearsal of some of the clown car skits can be over 200 hours. The choreography to simply fit more than a dozen clowns into a Volkswagen Beetle is astounding.

This leads me to a thought which is the fact that from the outside, I would never have known that one could pack so much into such a small space…and this leads me, albeit in a random way…to our torah portion.

But Moses said to God, Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should take the children of Israel out of Egypt…And Moses said to the L-rd: Oh L-rd, I am not a man of words, neither heretofore, nor since You have spoken to Your servant; for I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.

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The Alluring Drug Called Power

December 29, 2017 – Volume 6, Issue 10 –11th of Teves 5778
Parshas Vayechi

When one drinks from the alluring well called power, s/he will find that the opposite of satiation takes place. Like an addictive narcotic, even slight traces of power have a way of injecting themselves into our bloodstream and clamping down to remain firmly entrenched. As the saying goes, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. What’s fascinating about the grab for power is that the ones who chase after it are often the objects of scorn and ridicule (depending upon their level of power this may be done behind their backs). But what is the great allure of power and why can it prove so harmful?

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Falling Asleep in the Dentist’s Chair

December 22, 2017 – Volume 6, Issue 9 –4th of Teves 5778
Parshas Vayigash

I had a rather unique experience yesterday. But to appreciate it you have to understand a little bit about me…I’m someone who can pretty much fall asleep anywhere, anytime. When I say anywhere and anytime, I’m not simply referring to when I’m drowsy late at night I can pass out on the couch instead of in my bed. No. I’m talking about, I’ve fallen asleep (on a number of occasions) at Cardinals (MLB) games. (It’s always quite startling to get woken up when your team just hit a homerun!). I’ve fallen asleep standing up (virtually every year on the morning after Shavuot all night Torah study) during the morning service. And, occasionally at the Shabbat dinner table (even with guests there). I’ve fallen asleep with a concert playing in a room above my head.

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Suck It Up, Buttercup!

December 15, 2017 – Volume 6, Issue 8 –27h of Kislev 5778
Parshas Mikeitz

Suck it up. From a cursory Google search, the above phrase apparently originates from the unpleasant choice World War II pilots were required to make (PUT DOWN YOUR FORK IF YOU’RE EATING) had they vomited in their oxygen mask. They would literally have to “suck it up” or face death by breathing in the acidic fumes into their lungs. Colloquially we use the phrase suck it up, to mean suck up your feelings. From the playground to the ball field and from the gym to the basketball court, there is an underlying assumption that if you get hurt, you should toughen it out. Don’t show your pain. Play hurt. If you wince, it’s a sign of weakness. The given is that being weak and vulnerable is a bad thing.

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