Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for September, 2009|Monthly archive page

Leonard Cohen and Sonny Rollins Updating Unetaneh Tokef

In Uncategorized on September 27, 2009 at 7:14 pm

Get ready…Leonard Cohen with Sonny Rollins here to help seal the deal

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Obama wishing us a Happy New Year

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

Why is it so hard to say Yom Kippur properly? Non initiates including our very erudite President say Yahm Kippur.  Maybe they are on to something? Yahm in Hebrew means sea, a sea of atonement?  May it all go swimmingly.

גמר חתימה טובה לכולם

Leonard Cohen and Rav Nachman

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 at 5:57 pm

In his underrated and mostly forgotten novel, Beautiful Losers, one of the greatest songwriters of all time, wrote a long diatribe regarding his unfortunate state of constipation.  One line stayed with me for these nearly forty long years:

How can I be creative today with all of yesterday still with me?

Rav Nachman says not only can you be creative, but you can fix yesterday by fasting today–transforming that waste into energy. Yom Kippur, the unlaxative!

On the Joy of Fasting

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2009 at 3:39 pm

Yom Kippur and th 15th of Av were once days when young maidens would dance in the vineyards for their would be suitors who would witness the spectacle. We were told that these were the most joyous of days. Rav Nachman of Breslav, the great Hasidic master sees the fast itself as reason for celebration. Yom Kippur magically includes all the days of the year which is why it has the power to atone for all of them.  Fasting on this day, revives the days we have slain through our sins, and this makes sense biologically:

One can understand this from a material perspective. When one fasts, it is as if one does not have sustenance and strength from that day because he has neither eaten nor drunk anything, and still, he is serving God.  It must be that there is strength left over from yesterday. Thus he is bringing the strength of yesterday to today, and when he continues to fast, there isn’t enough from yesterday to sustain him so he must go further in the past, and through this he brings life back to the fallen and dead days and through this, he brings forth light and life to all the days.

Fasting diminishes desire so that we can fill ourselves with the glory of God. It is an opportunity to be welcomed.  He has much more to say on this and I have posted a translation of the essay in its entirety. For the Hebrew and English, Rav Nachman on Yom Kippur click here

Scorchintorah.com is all you have to write!

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 7:33 pm

I have just upgraded to a new domain name which has dropped wordpress from the URL: scorchintorah.com for anything that ails you.

A Reflection On How Technology Has Changed YK in Israel

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 2:33 pm

The Once Quietest Day of the Year in Israel has been altered by the ubiquity of technology.  A reflection of what we lose when we are perpetually connected. Worth a read.

Free Speech vs. Ethical Speech

In Uncategorized on September 23, 2009 at 2:12 pm

The Framers of the Constitution never imagined the abuses of free speech on the internet. People defaming each other anonymously and spreading lies virally throughout the entire globe. The Torah views speech as profoundly and uniquely human which makes it a quality of the Divine.  Speaking is a sacred task and one that needs to be done with great care. Years ago, I created a faux Talmud page that examined the conflict that can emerge when one has no moral compulsion to temper his speech. The age old question is who needs to be protected from whom?

For the Only One Who Really Cares About What You’re Doing ALL THE TIME!!!!!

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 at 7:56 pm

Congress responds to usurious banking fees

In Uncategorized on September 22, 2009 at 12:05 pm

Washington Post yesterday stated that Congress will pass legislation that will halt the practice of automatic overdrafts from debit cards.  Consumers will no longer be clobbered with huge “fees” (read penalties) for being a penny overdrawn. People should not let this fall by the wayside and let the Congress  know consumers need to be protected. that

Begging Forgiveness: Do It for Yourself

In Uncategorized on September 21, 2009 at 1:24 pm

Too often the perfunctory request for forgiveness is only offered to those of whom we are guaranteed a positive outcome, but, in fact, have not seriously wronged at all.

I offer the following story.  A close friend whom I wished to visit because my family was away had told me not to come because a mutual friend was visiting and basically two was company and three was a crowd.  It seems my observant lifestyle would have cramped whatever style he had envisioned for the weekend.  I immediately wrote a letter saying how upset, hurt I was that somehow our being together was less important than how we might have spent the time.  If this was an indication of our friendship, then there really wasn’t much friendship at all.

What did I want from that letter? I wanted a response, and as each year, each birthday went by and no response was forthcoming, I came to the realization that what I had written seemed to be true.  He didn’t really care, and that hurt worse that the previous rejection.

One day, five years later, a letter arrived in the mail (this was a long time ago!) from my friend who apologized not only for what had happened, but for why it had taken him so long to respond.  He had had a dream recently that included me, both of us looking for someone’s house that we couldn’t find.  The following day he picked up a random book at a new age book store and it happened to be my translation of Sharre Orah that had recently been published.  When he saw my name on the cover, the signs could not be ignored and, finally, he felt impelled to write a letter.

It was clear that I, too, had been waiting lo these many years for that letter.  I wrote him back immediately, and he came to visit me for a few days soon after. This is not the end of the story.  The visit was not a great one.  The memories of our friendship were not rekindled in the present. After the visit, we didn’t manage to keep in touch, and years have since gone by without us being in contact.

Once, I got a call from a mutual friend that David was having a special birthday and his girlfriend was organizing a special party and she had requested messages from people who were important to his past.  Without hesitation, I sent a message, happy to modestly contribute to this celebration. I received a response, but there was no subsequent correspondence.

David’s visit had filled a hole that was in my heart. His acknowledgement that he had been bothered by the way we left things allowed us to discover whether we should be friends based on who we were now and not on what we had done to each other.  The hurt went away and I can fondly remember the times we had together.

The point is that fixing what we have done wrong does not have to end in some kind of grand epiphany, but your last memory of someone who once mattered to you, should not be one of disappointment and hurt.  People should be able to reclaim the moments when they mattered to each other.  It is worth the risk of rejection to try and do this.

It was true that because I had already approached him and been open about how offended and disturbed I was that it was up to him to respond.  We don’t always get a nudge from a dream and a chance encounter with a book, and we shouldn’t need it.

How many Yom Kippurs need to elapse, before we free ourselves from the shackles of our own design.  The Mishnah says: Transgressions between people cannot be atoned until one has mollified the injured party. These pains last for years. They don’t go away until they are addressed, and even if the outcome isn’t dramatic, or even positive, knowing that an effort was put forth, takes the burden off you and places it on the injured party.

The Mishnah says once one has apologized three times, the injured party carries the sin–and carry it, he will.

Please, don’t let another Yom Kippur go by. Do yourself a favor.