Snippets From Our Sages


A digest of links and messages that re-affirm the importance of being well and resilient



Too often, we “harden” our minds and our hearts, feeling firmly set in our ways, and preferring the comfort of our familiar routines and habits to the challenge of change.  We must not wait to hear words which will, like rain droplets, have this “softening” effect.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Haazinu; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-haazinu-1

This time of year is designated for honest, unbiased introspection to identify ways in which we are capable of growing beyond the limits to which we have heretofore assumed we are confined.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Kee Tavo; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-tuesday-12-elul-5780-september-1-2020 

When we feel angry, we are fixated on one particular problem, compromising our mindfulness of other concerns and responsibilities.  We avoid anger by putting wrongful acts into a broader perspective, and keeping focused on everything going on around us that demands our attention, without lending disproportionate importance to just one problem.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Mattot-Massei; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-matot-masei-5780-2020 

 We should not be trying only to “curse” that which we find difficult; we should be trying also to confront hardship, to accept challenges as opportunities for growth and achievement, and to equip ourselves with the skills and strength we need to overcome and gain from adversity.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Balak; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-balak-5780-2020 

We can learn leadership lessons from our parashah that will help us prevail in times of crisis of COVID and beyond, get ahead of short-term thinking, and always keep an eye on the big picture. The long view is not always understood or appreciated.

- Dr. Shira Epstein, "Taking the Long View:  Lessons of Leadership" (JTS Community Learning for Chukat-Balak), see full article at http://www.jtsa.edu/community-learning 

Those who are emotionally resilient are empathetic and feel pain, but not to the extent that they’re absorbed or consumed by it. They don’t become paralyzed by their emotions; they’re able to easily move on. For those who are less resilient, there are practices one can engage in to improve one’s sense of resiliency:

- Diana Raab, "Tips for Maintaining Resiliency During Difficult Times" (The Wisdom Daily), see full article at http://thewisdomdaily.com/tips-for-maintaining-resiliency-during-difficult-times/ 

If we wish to grow and to strengthen ourselves to withstand the lures and pressures around us, we need to make a concentrated effort.  Certainly, we can and should look around us for sources of guidance and inspiration.  Ultimately, however, we must take responsibility for our spiritual growth and put in the effort to advance, without ever waiting for somebody to come along and lift us up.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Shelach Lecha; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-shelach-5780-2020 

The path to the future moves through the past. We look ahead in our travels only to discover that our mistakes and sins, our brokenness, are “three days’ journey ahead”—allowing us the benefit of critical distance, but waiting for us nevertheless. The ark with our brokenness tells us where we need to stop and wait—to explore the issues and places that need attention, rectification, and healing, in order to move forward again in the right direction. It takes courage, patience, and resilience.

- Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, "The Journey"; see full article at http://www.jtsa.edu/the-journey?utm_term=ADP&utm_campaign=Finding%20Our%20Jewish%20GPS%3A%20Torah%20from%20JTS&utm_content=email&utm_source=Act-On+Software&utm_medium=email&cm_mmc=Act-On%20Software-_-email-_-Finding%20Our%20Jewish%20GPS%3A%20Torah%20from%20JTS-_-ADP 

Miriam, in a sense, made the same mistake as Aharon did in the beginning of the parasha, only in the converse.  Aharon felt concerned that he did not do what others did, whereas Miriam criticized Moshe for not doing what she did.  The mistaken assumption underlying both these responses to other people’s conduct is that one person’s way of doing things is necessarily right for another person.  Just as it is wrong to think that we must conduct our religious live precisely the same way as other people, so is it wrong to think that others must conduct their religious lives precisely the same way we do.  We should feel comfortable with our unique capabilities and unique role which we try to fulfill, and also respect other people’s uniqueness and their quest to pursue the path which they are meant to follow.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Behaalotecha; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-behaalotekha-5780-2020 

The small steps we take towards repentance and self-growth can lead us to “many,” to great progress and advancement.  We should never belittle the “pinholes,” the modest improvements that we make in our lives, because they are far more significant than we tend to think.  Just as the relatively small area of the petach Ohel Mo’eid was able to contain the entire nation, our relatively small steps forward contain far more importance than we would imagine they could.  According to the Rebbe of Modzhitz, then, the Midrash here urges us to never dismiss our small steps, to appreciate the value of even the seemingly trivial improvements that we make in our conduct and in our lives, and recognize that each one is precious and should bring us satisfaction.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Vaykhel-Pekudei; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-thursday-8-nissan-5780-april-2-2020 

 

This enemy, a virus, we can’t see it. We can’t argue with it or lash out at it; it is a silent, pervasive enemy that has perfectly normal people hoarding paper products in their closets. It’s an enemy that won’t allow us to hug our neighbors or come within feet of them. It has temporarily taken schools, libraries, playgrounds and large gatherings from us and our children, but it doesn’t have to get the best of us.

We are not lost, just having a little trouble finding our way right now.

- Carin M. Smilk, "GPS as a Faith Finder as Coronoa Clouds Our Way"; see full article at  https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/4685571/jewish/GPS-as-a-Faith-Finder-as-Corona-Clouds-Our-Way.htm 


This crisis will come to an end at some point.  Will we be the same? It’s hard to imagine we will although, to be honest, it is also hard to imagine we won’t. Self-reliance is so ingrained in the superstructure of our country. Even when we have needed to rally together to lift each other out of the Great Depression, defeat the Nazis, or heal after 9/11 the country found its way back to the contours of an American Dream that comes with its own bootstrap suitable for displaying in the foyer.  A reading of the E Pluribus Unum, Out of the Many One, where the One is me not a collection of everyone. The lesson of this moment could be the need to change for the long term but it can also be a craving for stability in the short term. Whatever the lasting effect though, we know that this moment is neither what we expected or even feared. The most heroic and self-sacrificing we can be is to think of others, rely on experts and just stay home.  This moment calls for neither fighting the Zombies nor for acting like them. Perhaps on another day.

- Michael Bernstein, "Not Zombies" (The Wisdom Daily); see full article at http://thewisdomdaily.com/not-zombies/ 

Right fear, maybe we’ll call it awe, arises from the willingness to look upon the dark and terrible face of God — the god of death and destruction, the god of hurricanes and burning constellations, the god of decay, suffering, pain and loss. All of these things are true, real, even beautiful. All births rise from some death. But the little ego in us wants to shun them from our small purview of reality, let alone include them in the wholeness of life and God.

When we make room for right fear, for awe, the illusions and suffering of egoic fear begin to fall away. Then there is something balancing the scale against the media’s hysteria. Breathe into the posture that can look upon the dark of life — feel how small we are in the face of that awesomeness. But what a privilege it is to be the eyes of the world — the only witness to all of God’s beauty.

Tilt the scales in the other direction, by right thinking and conscious practices.

- Zach Friedman, "Right and Wrong Fear" (The Wisdom Daily); see full article at http://thewisdomdaily.com/right-and-wrong-fear/ 

While we still have no clue as to what coronavirus will do to our world, our health, and our finances (perhaps all our precautions are not only exaggerated but even counter-productive?), we all recognize that something divine is at stake.

So, what to do? Let me quote a colleague of mine, Rabbi Moss from Australia: "Close your eyes and feel the uncertainty and make peace with it. Embrace your cluelessness. Because in all confusion there is one thing you know for sure: you are in the hands of God."

- Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, "The Coronavirus:  An Upside to the Crisis"


The Rebbe of Apta here powerfully depicts the way our actions impact our surroundings, the ability we have to inspire and motivate the people around us.  This illustration, of excitement generated by the sound of the craftsmen’s tools as they worked to build the Mishkan, models the way we can generate enthusiasm through our own enthusiasm and hard work.  When we passionately and lovingly devote ourselves to a certain undertaking, we create a certain aura of energy and excitement that will, to one degree or another, affect others. 

The Rebbe of Apta gave the example of a certain unlearned shamash (synagogue attendant) in Apta, whose job included waking the townspeople for prayers in the early hours.  This shamash was exceedingly successful in this role, the Rebbe said, to the point where once somebody heard his knocking, he could no longer remain in bed.  The Rebbe attributed this effect to the shamash’s special excitement and fervor, which had a profound impact upon others.  When we devote ourselves with passion and fervor to a lofty goal, we ignite – at least to some extent – passion and fervor within the people around us, and can have a far greater impact upon our surroundings than we would have thought we could.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Vaykhel-Pekudei; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-vayakhel-pekudei-5780-2020 

The cruelty of the Egyptians towards Benei Yisrael perhaps alerts us not to treat ourselves with this same kind of cruelty, not to impose upon ourselves tasks which we are not cut out for, and to instead enjoy the most precious aspect of freedom – the freedom to maximize our own unique talents and our own unique potential, and to make the decisions and reach for the goals that we truly believe are right for us.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Shemot; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-shemot-2 

Rather than live passively, waiting to see how we will be “drawn” from our current condition to a different one, we are to utilize our God-given talents and capabilities to “draw” the world from its current condition to a better one.  What defines us is neither the good fortune we have enjoyed nor the misfortunes we have endured, but rather the decisions we make and the work we invest to develop ourselves and to make the most significant contribution to the world that we are capable of making.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Shemot; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-shemot-2

"We might have thought that unlike physical needs, which present themselves on an ongoing basis, spiritual needs, once cared for, never return.  We perhaps would have assumed that in our youth we need to learn and struggle to establish the right patterns and build the right habits, but afterward, we require no “redemption,” as our success is assured.  The Midrash, according to the Sheim Mi-Shmuel, advises that spiritual success is a constant, ongoing, daily struggle, no less than our constant, ongoing, daily struggle to meet our physical and material needs.  We must be prepared and determined to meet the challenges that are “mitchadeish…be-khol yom,” which we confront on a daily basis, and recognize that daily struggle is part and parcel of religious life."

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Vayechi; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-vayechi-2 


If we insist on always staying on the same precise route, we limit ourselves.  The challenge, then, is to keep our eyes open for new opportunities without falling prey to the distractions and lures all around us; to adhere to the course of life that we are to follow while constantly seeking new ways to make the journey more productive and more fulfilling, ensuring to avoid the diversions that threaten to draw us off the correct path. 

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Vayishlach; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-parashat-vayishlach-2 



"Just as it is false to overstate the perfection of our heroes, so it is false to undervalue their spiritual achievements. Rather, we must study their lives honestly, recognizing that these are remarkable individuals who reached great heights—and who had to struggle mightily to attain their levels of religious insight and righteousness.  Their failings can be as instructive to us as their successes."  

Rabbi Marc D. Angel, "Biblical Heroes, Imperfections, Truth"; see full article at https://www.jewishideas.org/biblical-heroes-imperfections-truth-thoughts-parashat-lekh-lekha



As important as it is to passionately and diligently work to fulfill our dreams and realize our aspirations, we must be satisfied with the realistically best outcome.  If we stubbornly insist on nothing other than perfection, we are setting ourselves up for a life of disappointment and frustration.  In every area of life, we should strive for the ideal but be prepared to accept and be satisfied with less, humbly acknowledging that life is not meant to be, and will never be, perfect, and we can live happily and contentedly even if not all our ideal preferences are met.

- Rabbi David Silverberg, SALT Short D'var Torah for Hayyei Sarah; see full article at https://www.etzion.org.il/en/salt-friday-24-cheshvan-5780-november-22-2019 


The moral challenge for each of us is this: What do we do in the moment when we see something on social media that reinforces everything we want to be true? Do we type up something snarky and spread the story? Or do we be our own lie detector and make sure the entire story has been fleshed out?

- Salena Zito, "Our 90-Second Culture"; see full article at https://www.creators.com/read/salena-zito/10/19/our-90-second-culture