How Shabbat Brings Us Back to Earth

“Shabbos is practice for the world-to-come.  Weekly practice in living in a world that doesn’t need fixing.”

“On Shabbos you don’t have to believe in holiness because you can see it.”

“More than the Jewish people have kept the Shabbat, the Shabbat has kept the Jewish people”



“No one is going to be there tonight…” I told Yitzi as we trudged through snow and wind to reach our final destination.  The Boston streets were deserted. Commonwealth Avenue was a virtual ghost town.  It was Friday night, and despite pleas from parents and friends that we stay inside, Yitzi and I were heading to Chabad for Shabbat dinner in the midst of what Bostonians often call a “nor’easter (a massive snowstorm enveloping the city).

When we finally reached Chabad’s corner of Comm Ave, we were sure that when we walked through the door we would find no other guests. We were wrong. Contrary to our prediction, the house was more full than we had ever seen it.  The tables could not handle the amount of people.  There was talk of wine and challah shortages. Students were on the floors, in the foyer…everyone had come to Chabad.

So why, on the day when it is the most challenging to reach Shabbat services and dinner, do more people come than when walking to Chabad takes little effort? Is it that significant events such as snowstorms remind us that there is something bigger than ourselves out there? Do we crave the one thing that seems immortal in our minds,a Jewish tradition that has lasted for generations? Or do blizzards and city wide tragedies help us to realize that our everyday challenges are nothing compared to the importance of connecting with other human beings?

All of Friday, April 19,2013, the city of Boston was on lockdown.  Residents were urged to remain indoors as a massive manhunt was underway for a terrorist that had set off bombs at Marathon Monday and hijacked a car after killing a policeman.  With the terrorist still at large, the ban was lifted.  My assumption was that upon my arrival at Chabad, I would be the only guest.  There was a dangerous man on the loose. Who in their right mind would leave the safety of their own home for Shabbat?

I was wrong. When I arrived at Chabad, I encountered the same scene I had witnessed during the snowstorm. Tables were overflowing with people, students were on the floors, in the foyer….everyone had come to Chabad.  Candles were lit, wine was served, pieces of Challah were broken, and I realized that without this night, the snow storms and the lockdowns and the shootings and the craziness would dwell in our minds without end and without purpose. Shabbat is there to remind us that there are focuses in life more important than who’s running from police and who’s stuck inside. It reminds us that in the end, the people around you are the things that matter and that Challah, kugel, and a little wine can fix just about anything.


When Two Worlds Collide:Yom Hazikaron and the Boston Marathon

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It’s always something to talk about when the Jewish world and the secular world intersect.

Today is Yom Hazikaron. On this day, we not only recognize and honor those soldiers who have fallen to defend the state of Israel, we also recognize and honor those who have perished from terrorist attacks in Israel.

Today is the Boston Marathon.  On a day when the entire city comes outside to celebrate with the runners, 2 explosions have occurred at the finish line.

I have received text after text from loved ones in other cities asking about my status. Answering their texts sends chills down my spine. I never thought I would feel so appreciative to have been assigned two exams tomorrow.  My all day study prison has become a haven.  What I thought to be a curse of work has become a blessing.

The tragedy today is a reminder that these check ups should not only come when events such as these occur, but that it is important to remind those that you love that you care about them whenever you have the chance. Luckily, I can reply to these text messages. Many who met tragedy today can not.

While the hundreds of news alerts on my facebook wall of the events at the Boston Marathon may be informative, they are not what  your loved ones need right now.

If you have friends or loved ones in Boston, don’t hesitate to call them.

And while all of the facebook statuses and pictures about Yom Hazikaron may show support, there are more ways to recognize these people.

Pay attention to those you love. Appreciate that you can read this post right now.  Tell your family you are ok. And relax, you have survived another day.

Our prayers go out to those victims and families of those affected by the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon today.  

Letter to the People I Love

we are all architects of our own world; we are the kings of our Kingdom. To the extent that you grasp this in your heart, you will be able to not only understand life, but take control over it, and thus achieve your true desires. 

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” 
― Deborah Reber


It is the curse of the good hearted to want to change the world, and the good hearted exist in this group. While this is a blessing when we are accomplishing our goals and bettering humanity, this way of being is a burden when we realize that we do not have the power to control others.
I had to learn this the hard way, and I hope that you all can use my words and apply them to the current situation affecting our posse.

You can not control anyone else. The only person you can truly control in your life is you. 
-Marci Fried

When a very close friend of mine was going through a dark time in her life, these words kept me centered. Before I realized the truth in them, I spent countless hours worrying and countless hours trying to convince her to be happy. My words had little effect. I realized that although I could not change my peer in the way I wanted to, being able to keep centered and control myself was the one way that I could give her the support that she needed at the time.

Regardless of what we think of anyone’s decision, we can not feel guilt of the outcome. You-we- will inevitably feel pangs of guilt. I know this because you are all caring people. You all have so much love in your hearts and it is impossible to avoid pain when you have been blessed with a soul that feels the pain of others.

But this pain should not be from guilt. You have no control over other’s decisions. Nothing you could have done would have changed anything. All that you could have done was exactly what you were doing-to let your friends know that you supported them and loved them and cared about them. Letting others know that you care about them is the one way to help someone that you can otherwise not control.

As I am saying this, I know that I can not control the pain that you all feel-I know this because I struggle to control the pain in my heart I feel from his leaving. But the best thing that you can do for yourself, for your friend, and for the universe is to keep centered, keep positive, and show the people around you that you love them and are there for them, in whatever way that you can express it.

I love you all. More than you will ever know.

Never Forget יזכור

“When a person doesn’t have gratitude, something is missing in his or her humanity. A person can almost be defined by his or her attitude toward gratitude.”

―Elie Wiesel



A siren rang out in Israel today to honor the memory of those lost in the Holocaust. All over the world, communities are paying respect and keeping the memory alive of those who perished. Today is Yom Hashoah.

Today is a day of remembrance for the Jewish people. A day to mark the Holocaust, one of the most devastating tragedies to befall the people. But today is also a day to be hopeful.

March of the Living is a journey that Jewish youth from all over the world take.  From their hometowns they arrive to Poland and see the death camps where millions of our people were massacred.  They see the gas chambers, the ovens,  the details of a truth and a story that beg to be told, to never be forgotten.

Among all of this pain, however, there is hope.  As the painful story of our past is handed down to these generations, so too is the hope for a stronger Jewish people.  The youth who see the death camps are part of a strong and hopeful nation.

After touring the death camps, March of the Living takes its participants to Israel. Hope arrives out of desperation. Life arrives out of death.  Gabriel’s parents met on a March of the Living trip.  His father was a photographer on the trip and his mother, a participant.  Their grandparents experienced the horrors of the holocaust but today are able to see a family born out of tragedy, two people that would not have met if not for their experience.  Today, they have a thriving family. Two children carrying on the hope of the Jewish nation.  Out of suffering came hope and out of this experience came a family.

The importance of this day, Yom Hashoah, is not only in remembering those who perished, but also remembering the hope of the Jewish people and the gratitude to be felt that we are a stronger people today.

Elie Wiesel wrote “If the only prayer you say throughout your life is “Thank You,” then that will be enough.” So here’s your challenge for the day.  Remember those who have perished. Remember the millions who so unjustly lost their lives during World War 2. But don’t forget to remember Gabriel. Remember this generation of Jewish people.  Regardless of what your opinion on prayer is, be thankful that today you are a part of a hopeful nation and a people who only get stronger and more unified as time and history attempts to bring us down. This, also, is something you should never forget.

The Path to Happiness

“No landscape can compare to being with the people you love”

-Sam Meyers

Two conversations in particular from this week stand out to me. I recently spoke with a pair of students about to graduate,one American and one Israeli.  Both students were moving back into their homes after graduation, but both had very different perspectives on their plans.

The American student was disappointed at having to return home.  It marked a certain failure in her path to happiness, a nuisance when she should be elsewhere.  The Israeli student, on the other hand, chose to return home.  He aimed to look for jobs close to his family and close to the people he loved.

Recently, an article came out on the outstanding happiness of Israelis. One of the essential reasons for their happiness was a sense of community.  In most countries, this is normal.  It is more common than not for people to remain close to their families and return to their hometowns.

In American culture, this is not the case. Progress is getting as far away from the place you came from as possible.  Success is ending up somewhere great. Nowhere in the American Dream is the idea of returning to your roots mentioned.

But for Israelis, it is. Because, why not spend the limited time you have with the people you care about? Why is it so ingrained in the American system that the path to happiness is leaving the people who make you happy when the rest of the world realizes that this is not the case?

Maybe it is time that people in the US began to take cues from those in Israel.  While spreading wings and gaining independence is valuable, remaining close to the people that you love should not be taken for granted.  It is human nature to desire to be with those who love and care about you, and it is American culture that attempts to deny that nature in search of something greater.  Maybe it is time for us all to sit back,observe, and learn from the guy that excitedly plans on living in his parents home after he graduates.  We can learn a lot from him.


Why is this week different from all other weeks?

Studying in a bakery presents it’s challenges when Passover arrives.   While most patrons have cupcakes, pie slices,  baguettes and cookies, I find myself with an orange.

This may at first seem a sad picture.  People around me are enjoying their freshly toasted paninis.  Their fingers wipe frosting off a cake that I am forbidden from eating.  However, this is not the full picture.  What the eye does not see is the positive in this situation.

Avoiding the foods that are forbidden on Passover has proved to be a blessing.  I do not say this because it is Judaism’s version of an 8 day South Beach diet. I say this because it necessitates awareness. The time it takes to choose what to eat gives me a new appreciation for what I put in my body. I may not be able to indulge in the traditional bakery fare, but that first bite of orange was one of the best first bites of an orange I have ever had.

We are all slaves to our schedules.  Slaves to our own autopilot abilities.  We walk to our locations without noticing the sights in between.  We finish our meals without taking notice of every bite.  We have conversations and can only remember the endings. This all changes over Passover.  Passover gives us the opportunity to release ourselves from unawareness and shed our shackles of habitual unconsciousness.

Thinking twice about ordering food is an act rarely practiced.  Receiving that food and learning to appreciate it regardless of it’s lack of Chametz is neglected on all other days but these.

So the ancient question arises once again: why is this night unlike all other nights? Or, rather, why is this week so different than all other weeks? This week is different because it gives us the opportunity to step back and appreciate the process.    It realizes the necessity in paying attention to your surroundings and noticing the little things, not just getting to the last orange slice.  It releases us from our slavery to unconsciousness, it brings a new meaning to everything we do, and while we may lose the opportunity to enjoy a pastry, we gain the opportunity to enjoy much more.

On Jewish Unity

I met him on my flight back to Boston from Atlanta. He was a Muslim student from Dubai, I was a Jewish student from the United States.  We had come from very different places but were on our way to the same University.   As the flight took off, we started a conversation on the Sunni and Shiite conflict.  By the end of our discussion, our conclusion was that both Judaism and Islam, although different in many ways, possess an interesting characteristic in common. Although all Jews are basically in the same “tribe”, there are many divides within the community.  It is the same in the Muslim community. What we could also agree on was that these differences should not be something to fight over, but that if the two communities were more unified within themselves, it would serve to strengthen the communities as a whole.

Passover recently just passed.  During the Seder, we tell the story of the questions of the four sons.  The wicked son, in asking his question,  does not include himself in the Jewish narrative. He asks, “what does this mean to you?” instead of including himself.  This story is meant to teach that we, as a Jewish people, are all part of the same narrative. WE went through slavery in Egypt. WE suffered in the Holocaust.  WE share in the celebrations, the challenges, the history of our people.  As Jewish people, we say that “we” were slaves in egypt.  If we can connect to the Jewish people who were slaves in Egypt and count ourselves among every other generation of Jews that have passed,why do many struggle to connect with the Jewish people right in front of them? Whether orthodox, traditional, reform, conservadox….it is important to embrace Jews as an entire family.  Those who have tried to bring us down have not handpicked their victims from various sects. The Nazi’s didn’t distinguish among observancy levels. When one Jewish person suffers, every Jewish person is experiencing that suffering. Now more than ever, when the state of Israel is threatened and every day counts in preserving the Jewish state, the Jewish people must acknowledge that that there is more strength in Unity than in separation and that a Jewish person is a member of the “Tribe” regardless of what sect they are affiliated with.