Do you want to be happier? The creation story found in the first weekly Torah portion, Bereishit, has much to teach us about simcha (Jewish happiness). Here are four important lessons:
Imagine how Jonathan Pollard felt this Shabbat, leaving jail after a 30-year prison term! How many times during those three long decades did he dream about being a free man: taking a long walk on a beach, meeting a friend in a coffee shop, embarking on a trip with his wife, taking a luxurious bath, praying in a beit knesset?
I’m not usually the type to obsess about my financial situation, or to think too much about the things I don’t have. Israelis seem a little less materialistic than people in other Western countries and I am blessed to have a full-time job in high-tech, an apartment in Modi’in, a car, etc.
But I must admit that my recent trip to visit my family and friends in Boston (near Boston, technically) shook me up a little bit.
When I first heard about Rachel Dolezal, the woman who masqueraded as African-American and seems to have falsely claimed she was the victim of hate crimes, I immediately thought about some of my own identity issues and the way I sometimes misled others after making Aliyah.
My name is displayed on a banner that hangs in my high school gymnasium. Nearly 20 years ago, I finished my three years of varsity high school basketball in Massachusetts having scored over 1,000 points.
At the time, I was the second-leading scorer in school history. A few years later, after others players had also broken that barrier, the school created a banner for its 1,000-point scorers.
If the high school version of me had known that one day his name would hang on a banner in the gym, he would have been ECSTATIC. I got into basketball because I craved recognition.
Blessings in the Bathroom
My ten-day hospital stay approximately two years ago was a good spiritual refresher course. Perhaps surprisingly, many of my best lessons occurred in my hospital room’s bathroom.
I was hospitalized in Israel’s excellent Tel HaShomer hospital after suffering a painful urinary blockage that caused my lower pelvis to swell. In the preceding days I went to the restroom much more often than usual, but I simply could not empty my bladder. If you’ve never had that experience, it is frustrating, uncomfortable and worrisome.
Rainy days are annoying, right? Who wants to get soaked when going outside or risk driving a car in the lowered visibility of a rainstorm?
Many people view rain as a negative phenomenon, but for our sages, it wasn’t enough to merely appreciate rain. They taught us to actively pray for it. Starting on Thursday evening, the 7th of Cheshvan, Jews in Israel will begin saying, “Grant dew and rain as a blessing” (ותן טל ומטר לברכה) in their daily prayers (Jews in the Diaspora begin saying it on December 4).