Rabbi Greisman's Blog


Supermoon in Rogers.jpgI was driving to Fayetteville early Monday evening, taking back a U of A student who came up to Bentonville to help a mourner say Kaddish at evening prayers. The sky was clear and the “historic” Supermoon was shining brightly over Walton Blvd. We were in middle of determining whether it truly looked larger than usual as suggested by everyone on the news and social media, when he breaks out in laughter and shows me a text message he had just received from his mother in South America: Tonight is supermoon. You must go out and watch it (I don’t read Spanish but I do trust his translation).

We’re obsessed with ‘historics’. We love to be part of or witness a historic moment. In the last few weeks we had a historic supermoon, a historic election and a historic sports championship; we have historic interest rates and historic real estate values; and the list goes on and on.

I define historic as something which alters the course of history – positively or otherwise – permanently and irreversibly. I think of events like the giving of the Torahat Sinai, an event that changed the face of humanity forever, as historic; something we and the world at large still speak about 3,300 years later.  I’m willing to consider the founding of the USA and some other events – positive or negative – that have truly lasting ramifications, as historic. But historic events happen once in a century, perhaps; not once a week. Most, if not all, of what we define as historic is merely a slightly louder version of politics, economics, sports or even astronomy as usual. Sooner or later they’re all meaningless.

So why are we so obsessed with histroics? What drives the human being to label any event that is slightly out of the ordinary as historic?

A few months ago there was a historic Powerball Jackpot. Everyone that had a spare dollar that week, purchased a lottery ticket. On one of my Whatsapp groups someone made the following observation: When it comes to texting and driving, we’re all convinced that an accident ‘won’t happen to me’ despite the huge odds of it happening; yet when it comes to the 1 in a billion (or so) chance of winning the lottery, we’re all convinced it’s going to happening to me. Why?

I believe the answer is the same. We’re all pre-programmed by G-d with the will and ability to do something historic. We naturally thirst for that moment. It is only because of the confusion that the ambiguous world we live in presents that we are searching in the wrong places to make history.

 G-d created the world with a plan. That plan is being executed every time a Jew does another mitzvah, adding holiness to the world and bringing Moshiach one step closer. There is a single solitary deed that is going to tip the scale and be the final deed to make it happen. Who is going to do that last one? G-d left that for us; one of us will perform the final Mitzvah and do something truly historic. It can be you!

In the words of the Rambam: a person should always look at himself as equally balanced between merit and sin and the world as equally balanced between merit and sin. If he performs one sin, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of guilt and brings destruction upon himself. [On the other hand,] if he performs one mitzvah, he tips his balance and that of the entire world to the side of merit and brings deliverance and salvation to himself and others.

So instead of looking to witness or make history in politics, economics or sports -- look in the right place: Yourself. Do a mitzvah NOW and tip the scale. It will be truly historic.

Gut Shabbos,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman


It Can Happen

“Can I ask you a personal question?” I was asked – eight years and two months ago, in the heat of the 2008 election cycle – by a woman who just walked into my house; “Who are you voting for in November? – You see,” she continued, “last night during dinner my high-school senior announced “I’m really curios who the Rabbi will vote for in November” and that made me curios, too. I hope it’s ok to ask” she concluded.

I assured her that while I had no intention of answering her question, it’s was perfectly ok, even more than ok, to ask. It made me happy that she asked. As a rabbi, I explained, my mission is to help every single Jew celebrate their Judaism at their level, regardless of where they stand religiously, ideologically or politically. At Chabad, I explained, you will never ever be part of a political conversation, as we simply don’t let those happen; so every Jew can feel comfortable here. Since most Jews are very passionate about their politics and the views of my best friends vary wildly, I make sure that my personal politics remain personal so I’m able to maintain a friendship will all of them. The fact that her son had no clue whom I was planning to vote for, means that I was successful.

If you read this column regularly, you know that I always try to find a lesson from events I experience personally as well as from regional, national or international events. Surely, I thought to myself over the last two days, there’s a message we can derive from what happened this week, that all of my friends in this community can connect to – from the person who wore sackcloth of Wednesday, to the person who jubilantly recited a prayer of thanks to heaven at 3:00 am, and everyone in between.

One thing we can all agree on is that this week proves that unexpected things canhappen. At shocking speeds. So, one lesson perhaps we can all learn, is that preparing ourselves for the unexpected may not be such a bad idea.

If you view this as the end of an era and a true disaster – recall the eternal words of king Solomon “At all times, let your garments be white”; meaning that you should be prepared for it, if death struck at this moment. Is there someone you need to apologize to – do it today. Does your family know that you want to be buried and not cremated? Do your children know your true Jewish values so they aren’t left guessing or not knowing? 

And if you view this event as a blessing and the birth of a new era – think: Are you ready for a new era in your life? If you’re waiting too long for the love of your life – know that it may happen unexpectedly; if you’ve waited to long for the blessing of children – know that it may happen unexpectedly; if you’ve been out of a job for what appears as forever – know that one may just become available today. Prepare yourself, mentally and practically – unexpected things do happen.

For over three thousand years we’ve been collectively waiting for the coming of Moshiach, an era of true goodness and kindness, where all of humanity will pursue holiness, goodness and kindness; where there will be no famine, war, competition or political campaigns. It will be an era when G-d’s purpose in creation is fulfilled. It appears so removed, so far way, so much unexpected; but this week taught us that unexpected things happen quickly. So, prepare thyself with another act of goodness and kindness, as your next action is going to be one to tip the scale and make this world better forever.

Gut Shabbos.

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