Bottled Up Kindness

by Rabbi Jason

'The kindnesses of the Lord I shall sing forever; to generation after generation I shall make known Your faithfulness, with my mouth. For I said, "Forever will it be built with kindness; as the heavens, with which You will establish Your faithfulness."' -- Psalms 89:2-3

The lessons of kindness coming from the scriptures are as boundless as the kindness Hashem used when He formed Creation. The midrash teaches us that the Torah begins with kindness (the clothing of Adam and Eve) and ends with kindness (the burial of Moses). It seems that chesed is a fundamental force of the universe.

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Devarim: Words With A View

 by Rebbetzin Malkah

As I drive around to various locations throughout my week, I am stunned and sometimes exasperated by some of the housing prices.  What drives some homes to be exceptionally more?  Location, location.  Want to live by a lake?  See the mountains?  Live in the perfect suburbia with everything you need?  No problem.  All you need to do is sign on the dotted line and hand over your salary - you can have it all.  As we begin Sefer Devarim, we are witnessing Moshe as the first real estate broker in action for Eretz Yisrael.

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Bamidbar - An Empty Tank

torah bamidbar5771by Rebbetzin Malkah

"We like to continue to believe what we have been accustomed to accept as true, and the resentment aroused when doubt is cast upon any of our assumptions leads us to seek every manner of excuse for clinging to them.  The result is that most of our so-called reasoning consists in finding arguments for going on believing as we already do."    James Harvey Robinson, American historian (1863-1936)

A quote like the one above succinctly sums up the tone and the troubles of the Children of Israel throughout the book of Bamidbar.  The continuing struggle for a past reality, the misconception that all that there was and is now is all that will be, and the struggle to step forward in faith.  As we see all around the world, society is becoming disgruntled over the price of fuel.  Not one of us wants to pay more for the substance, but neither does anyone wish to run completely out of petrol on the highway or byway.  But perhaps the solution coming our way is quite contrary to what we might expect or desire.  Indeed, what we might need is to come to the verge of running out completely in order to spur on a true change and a new hope.  As B'nei Yisrael needed to enter the vast desert to run out all of their adverse ways, the future of transportation and our own lives is very much dependent on one thing for change:  an empty tank.

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Shemini - Jewish Soul Train-ing

by Rebbetzin Malkah
 

As a child, I fondly remember flipping through the channels looking for some of my favorite shows.  Occasionally, the music for one particular show would stream onto the television as the ever popular cartoon train moved across the screen - yes, I mean Soul Train. I would pause for a moment and watch the train go by and then continue my search.   I can still hear the music in my head to this day.  What was unique about this show is that for many, it was a window into African-American culture that for some might otherwise never have been experienced.  The latest fashion and dance trends were discussed, and new or popular artists donned the set to sing the latest hits.  During the 70's and 80's, it was a cultural and spiritual tutor for many.

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Vayakhel - The Nature in the Mishkan


by Rebbetzin Malkah

The car packed to the hilt, the Thule threatening to burst at the seams atop our car, our family drove with desperation for one purpose only:  to be near the mountains.  The familiar rental cabin nestled fifteen miles from Mt. Baker in Washington affords five star mountain accommodations: no cell phone access, no wireless internet and no cable TV.  In essence, the goal was to set up shop, our own Mishkan, away from the roar of everyday life.  While some of the usual technological conveniences were lost, we knew we would not be without the four elements crucial to the Mishkan and considered symbolically essential in any Jewish home: the Ark, the Table, the Menorah and the Incense Altar.  Ok, well not literally - they wouldn't fit in the car.  However, all of these elements are interconnected to the basic physical elements that still exist in this world:  air, fire, earth and water.  Being out in the more remote areas at the foot of a mountain, it wasn't hard to see that I was in a larger than life Mishkan model that was vitally connected to all of these natural elements. Perhaps it was noticing on our second day the Holy Smoke bus, clad in gold (or school bus yellow paint) that waited outside the gate of the cabin properties boasting of an eatery just down the road.  It sat there, as if some beacon, reminding me that even in this remote area, under the Heavens, we carry our own Mishkans with us today and follow suit with the kohanim:  setting up, tearing down, wherever we go, wherever we stay.

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Ki Tetzei - Mother Bird

by Rebbetzin Malkah

After G-d's creation was finished at the conclusion of six days, everything was in perfect balance. The seventh day represented the paragon of wholeness. The earth, nature, and humanity were in perfect relationship with their counterparts. When we ate from the Tree of Knowledge in Gan Eden with the wrong intention, we suddenly plunged ourselves into a world where we fail to understand anything in a pure and simple state.  There would be no single pure moment or action. There was always a mixture of pain, or suffering, or sorrow which opposed the good in life. We would know the joy of bringing a child into the world, but not without the pain of labor. We would enjoy the fruit of the earth, but not without toil and tremendous work. We would witness a marriage ceremony, but not without the breaking of the glass and remembering our forlorn Jerusalem. We would strive to create the perfect energy source, but always find the means to produce it are far too costly or toxic. Once we were forced to leave Gan Eden, a place of plenty and goodness, we lost the ability to find anything in a pure and simple state.

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Ki Tavo - Reflections of the Heavens

by Rebbetzin Malkah
 

In parasha Ki Tavo, the process of giving and confessing the tithes is laid out for the Children of Israel.  After completing the tithes, we are to confess or declare our deed of the tithes before Hashem.  But then, after all of our submissive acknowledgement, we end on a final note of bold supplication for a blessing.

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