Rabbi Greisman's Blog

Gate C10

Why is it that when you have a 32-minute layover you have to run the length and breadth of the airport to make your next flight but when you have a three hour layover your connection is just two gates away? This seems to be the story of my travels recently. There appears to be an odd correlation between the layover time and the distance between the gates – the shorter the one, the greater the other.

Do the airlines do it on purpose? Do they enjoy the scene of a Chassidic rabbi arriving breathlessly to his connecting flight? Do they simply want to give you as many opportunities to buy a soda at 3.79 a piece?

Why is life so easy at some times and so challenging at others? This question bothered me as I was comfortably strolling from gate C6 to C10 in Charlotte Airport during my three hour layover on Wednesday morning.

Three of my sons and I were traveling to NY to attend the International Conference of Chabad Shluchim – Emissaries of the Rebbe, rabbis of Jewish communities throughout the world. A four-day get together, where we brainstorm, network, meet, Farbreng, pray, learn and recharge ourselves for another year of dedicated service to our communities.

‘The Kinus’, as it is called, also includes the “Young-Shluchim’s Kinus” – a three-day mini-camp for over 1,000 young boys, the sons of the rabbis and the future of Jewish leaders. It was heartwarming to see my 12 year-old Berel embracing his online-school classmate Asher, from Samara, Russia, who he’s seen every day for four year on his computer screen but met for the first time in real life on Wednesday.

Last night, when – as I do every evening before I go to sleep – I was reading the daily Torah portion (only that this time it was at 1:45 am, as I just got done catching up with Chaim Shmaya from Portland, OR), I came across the verse (Gen 27:4) where our forefather Yitzchok tells his son Esau to “make me delicacies, such as I love”.

I recalled an interpretation for the word delicacies that is written in the plural, indicating two kinds of pleasure. With these words, explains the Alter Rebbe in Tanya, Gā€‘d asks of the Jewish people to please Him with their divine service . Just as with material food, there are two kinds of delicacies— one of sweet and luscious foods, and the other of sharp or sour articles which are unpleasant to eat in their natural state, but have been well spiced and prepared so that they become delicacies which revive the soul — so too are there two kinds of spiritual delicacies. One is provided by  the righteous, who are occupied solely with matters that are “good” and “sweet” — holy matters and they no longer grapple with the evil inclination.  The second kind of delicacy is provided by the rest of us, who are occupied with “bitter” matters, with battling against the evil inclination in our soul, and with the evil thoughts that it spawns. When we succeed, we provide a whole new type of delicacy that is equally pleasing to G-d.

I believe this to be true within each life as well. Sometimes G-d wants to see how we act when things are sweet and easy and at others He wants to see how we react to challenges. Both forms of behavior are equally pleasing to him.  This is why life sometimes seems easy and sometimes much harder.

Every Jew has aspects of Judaism that come easy to them and others that are more challenging. Some can’t wait for Shabbos to start and others can’t wait for it to end; some find it difficult to eat only kosher and others never crave anything but kosher; but if you find a specific Mitzvah to be especially challenging for you – it’s not because it’s too much for you. It only means you have an opportunity to paint a supersized smile on G-d’s holy face.

Something to think about next time you have three hours to walk the distance between two gates …

Shabbat Shalom

Lights-out Shabbat

Last Friday night about 9:30 pm, something went wrong with a substation transmission power line and over 10,000 Rogers residents were left without power. I am not sure what the other 9,999 did, but in our home there was not much we can do -- it was Shabbos and no flashlights can be turned on or phone calls made. Fortunately, we were still able to continue our Shabbos dinner without interruption.

It is a custom in many communities that with the birth of each child we add one more Shabbos candle to the required two; so, with 8 children thank G-d, my wife lights 10 candles each week. Those, in addition to the ones lit by our daughter and our guest, provided enough illumination to continue Shabbos dinner uninterrupted.

1.jpgI don’t know if I ever appreciated the Shabbos candles as much as I did last Shabbos. With the lights usually on, I was never able to notice just how much light and warmth they provide. Enjoying a ‘candlelight dinner’ in a pitch black home and neighborhood was amazingly beautiful and peaceful.

As the evening progressed and the candles were reaching their end – one by one – I was surprised to see the difference in the room with each missing flame. I never had the chance to witness just how much light one little candle emits.  

And I thanked G-d for each and every little candle.

The following morning in Shul, enjoying Shabbos prayers with our wonderful community, I couldn’t help but make the connection between the previous night’s events and that morning in Shul.

Yes, ours is a small community. We don’t have hundreds of people in Shul like they have in Jerusalem or Brooklyn. But because of that, each person that is there makes a palpable difference to the atmosphere and the warmth of the community. It isn’t easy to notice the value of each individual when “the lights are on” – when you’re in Shul with 500 people. Thank G-d for our small community, where we can appreciate the difference each and every one of you makes when they enter Shul.

And I thanked G-d for each and every member of our Jewish community.

Shabbat1.jpgSo after-all, last week I had a well-lit Shabbos. Tonight, as Dobi lights her candles; and tomorrow as we sit and pray with whoever is in Shul, I will once again thank G-d for the light and warmth each candle and each Jew brings.

I welcome you to join me in lighting Shabbos candles in your home tonight and in joining us in Shul tomorrow. Bring in the light!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mendel Greisman

P.S. In case you’re wondering, about an hour and a half later, as the last of the candles were about to go out, the power came back on.  

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