Rabbi Mendy's Blog

A weekly exploration into the Torah's lessons for life

How we speak to each other, can change in a moment if..


Why are people so comfortable today denigrating others on the internet, social media, and even in person? While we humans have maintained differing opinions and perspectives from the beginning of time, in the past, we had a structure for expressing those differences respectfully, but today, it seems that it's gone. How? Why? From last week and this week's Torah portion, we know the harsh response to speaking badly about another human being. Why? After all, they're just words!? 

Words might seem trivial, but if you look at the Ten Commandments, we see that the first few commandments, which reference belief in G-d and taking G-d's name in vain, all center around speech. What we say is either respectful of the world's creator or G-d forbid the opposite. The words one says express the truth or who we are, as a believer or a heretic. These directives are placed at the beginning of the Ten Commandments, the foundation of Jewish tradition and all of humanity. 

This fundamental truth is the reason why a person who speaks badly is stricken with a Tzaraas, a terrible skin condition, and isolated from the camp of the Jewish people. Why is a person kicked out of the community and treated like an idolator for speaking badly? The answer helps us understand the enormity of this terrible trend in society. Genesis tells us that every human being is created in G-d's image, just like the first person, Adam. When we demean someone, we are disgracing an image of G-d, no different than cursing Hashem itself. Thus, the correlation with idolatry. 

The saddening truth is that as society has moved further away from faith in G-d, we've lost the appreciation and respect for every human being as a reflection of their creator. The natural progression can clearly be seen with a loss of respect. We no longer care about our words' impact and their damage on others. Our focus has become entirely on ourselves and how good we feel when we put others down.  

So what do we do? How do we reserve the trend? Simple: Strengthen our faith in Hashem and train ourselves to once again see that divine image in the face of every person around us. When we rebuild that recognition and the accompanying respect, we naturally cease speaking badly about others and ourselves. We will begin focusing on the positive, the true nature of every person, their G-dly soul. In this way, we will reunite our people and world to fulfill our shared mission: to repair our world as a home for the divine. 

Mission: When you feel the urge to speak badly about someone, stop, close your eyes, and think of this person as a divine soul. Now, open your eyes and look again at that person; let your new perspective guide your words. 

so what if it's true, does that justify murder?


Dear Friends,

In an age of expression, when society tells us that whatever we think or feel we should be allowed and even empowered to say, should there be any restrictions on our speech? Is "say whatever you want" truly progress for our world?

The answer lies in this week's Torah portion Tazria. There, we learn about the ancient affliction called Tzaraas, a consequence of speaking negatively about someone else. The afflicted person would have to leave the entire Jewish camp for a week once their diagnosis was confirmed. You might wonder why such a harsh punishment for someone if they were speaking the truth, so what if it's harmful and hurtful? The answer is that telling the truth is not an excuse to destroy someone else, and that's what negative speech can do, even if it's true. The Torah compares Lashon Hara to murder, and just as one would never justify murder by saying, "I disagreed with them; I had to kill them because they were so wrong and contradicted my truth," so too, one can't justify disparaging someone else in any way.

The notion that self-expression comes above all else is selfish and nothing more. When we embrace that life is a mission given to us by G-d we stop focusing on ourselves and start focusing on others. No longer is our metric for right and wrong what makes us feel good now; it's centered on what G-d wants me to say. What will help make this world a better place? What would help the other person about whom I speak elevate themselves and move beyond their past failings? These are the questions I need to ask, so let's ask them and stop justifying our terrible talk. We will never get to where we want to go if we don't help others elevate themselves instead of crushing them.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski

Mission: Words matter, so make sure yours are mission-centric, not me-centric.


why are you so afraid to commit?



It’s hard to commit, I know. In relationships, at work, with family, even what to choose for lunch can be difficult, because we have such a fear of commitment. In all of the areas of our life, we are forced to choose one way or the other. Sometimes we are so scared, we choose badly, or not at all. How do we cope with, and overcome commitment issues?
The answer lies in this week’s Torah portion Behar-Bechukosai, where we read about the laws of Shemittah, the Sabbatical. The Torah tells us that every seven years, the land of Israel must be allowed to rest, one may not plant or grow any crop.
To a people that relied on agriculture as their primary source of nourishment or sustenance, it was required a tremendous leap of faith, and commitment to observe these laws. Not working the land in the seventh year, meant that even in the 8th year, the land was still fallow. Yet the Jewish people overcame their fears and followed the tradition for centuries.
Their courage to take that leap was born from the knowledge that G-d has a plan for each person, one need's only to play their part. Thus a seemingly miraculous phenomenon developed in biblical Israel. Every sixth year of the Shemittah cycle would produce such an abundance of food, it would satisfy their needs for the following two years. The commitment to their faith evoked such a blessing that vanquished any fears they might have had.
We too must develop our faith in G-d's plan. We might never be in a position to fully understand every detail in our lives. Nor will we ever be able to control it entirely. Our ability to overcome our fears of and fully commit to each other, our work, our families, and our community, will ultimately decide our success.
So the next time you feel yourself stepping up to the edge in your life, afraid of what the future may hold, ask yourself one question, is this part of G-d's plan? If the answer is yes, have faith, leap forward, and commit, you'll be happy you did.
Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski
Mission: Where in your life has fear of commitment held you back? Think of that next step you need to take, is it part of G-d's plan or an aberration? If yes, don't get held up by your lack of total understanding, leap forward and see the results.

doing is great, but listening is even better


She says "he doesn’t listen to me", he says "but I do what she tells me to do". Can they both be right? This question plagues many relationships, some between males and females, and some where the roles are reversed.

The answer lies in this week’s Torah portion Yisro, where we recount the giving of the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai. There we read that the Jewish people accepted the Torah by saying “we will do, and we will listen”.

The giving of the Ten Commandments is an example of a relationship being formed, in this case it’s the Jewish people and G-d, but the same can be applied to any relationship. They require both doing and listening.

While it is true that action speaks loudest, and fulfilling the desires of another is the building blocks for any relationship. Listening is how we take the relationship to the next level. When one person talks, they are revealing themselves to the other. If the recipient truly opens themselves up, not only hearing but listening to what their partner is saying, then the communication can help one learn more about the another, that they may grow more deeply connected.

This is the value of “doing” and “listening”. Yes, you might be good and getting things done, but if you don’t take the time to listen, you will never truly connect with another person. To listen fully is not easy, it requires clearing our minds, to make room for another’s perspective. Yet the effort it requires is worth it, as only then can we truly come to know one another, and fully connect as human beings.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski

Mission: Think of your friends and family, those closest to you. Do you fully listen when they speak? Do you find yourself struggling to make sense of their actions? Are you mind to listen to them, and you’ll come to know them better then ever before.

I care about you

You care about the future of the Jewish people, right? You want to make sure that our tradition continues to be celebrated, and that people feel connected to their faith and heritage. Yet, the numbers scarily predict our demise, as so many of our people are falling out of Jewish practice, and eventually even Jewish identity.

Maybe we’re going about this all wrong. 

In this week’s Torah portion Vaeira, we read about Moshe’s frustrations, and concerns that the Jewish people wouldn't listen to him. As his initial conversations with Pharaoh backfired, and the Jewish slaves were made to create their own bricks, while keeping the same quota. G-d tells Moshe that he must tell the Jewish people, that the end of their slavery and suffering will come very soon, Moshe tries to convey the message, but reports back to G-d that the Israelites won’t listen to him, "because their spirit was broken and because the labor was harsh.” It wasn’t Moshe’s fault that their faith was weak, that they lacked confidence and trust that G-d was going to redeem them. Rather a people who were physically broken, impoverished, ostracized, enslaved, can’t thing about spiritual pursuit until they’re physical needs are met, until they are shown that someone cares about their personal wellbeing, only then can they focus on their spiritual growth, their connection to G-d. 

This is the model we need to follow today, in our goal of reconnecting our brothers and sisters to their Jewish roots. We must first show them care and concern, as an individual. We must love and accept them for who they are. Once that bond is established, only then can we work to reenergize their passion for Jewish life, by showing them the joy it entails.

It’s time we reach out like Moshe, and recognize the pain and hurt many of our brethren face every single day. Let us turn to one another, offering a helping hand, a gentle touch, and a warm smile. Once connected we can then all rise together in celebration of our Jewish life.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom, 
Rabbi Mendy Dubrowski

Mission: Consider someone you know, who lacks a support system in the Jewish community, maybe they’re unaffiliated or have special circumstances. Reach out and enquire how you can help, with no string attached. Build the bridge, then walk them over and re-connect them.

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