The Talmud teaches that when you save one life it is as if you’ve saved the entire world. But saving a life is not just about keeping a person breathing, it is also about creating and recreating ourselves to be better people, better servants of G-d to earn our way to everlasting life. If you are the same person you were yesterday, you are dying. The Torah is compared to the Tree of Life, I’m praying that my blogs will inspire you to choose life and to kill off what’s killing you, all the false gods you’ve chosen to serve instead of G-d and His Torah, our Torah. Satan comes with sexual provocations, the lust for money, and jealousy of others. Nevertheless, the struggles are yours to win. Evil inclination also puts tempting words upon your heart and so the Torah warns us: Beware, lest your heart be misled, and you turn away... And the wrath of the Lord will be kindled against you. (Deuteronomy 11:16-17)
It has been asked why from all the Torah’s great men, from Abraham to Moses, why the Jewish nation has come to be called Israel, the name given to our Patriarch Jacob after wrestling with an angel who ultimately blesses him: "Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have striven with [an angel of] G-d and with men, and you have prevailed." It’s actually rather simple. The life of a living, breathing Jew is a constant struggle with G-d and for G-d. It is that struggle that makes us Israel; it is the struggle that makes us a light among the nations. It is that struggle that makes everything we never dreamed we could be or were destined to be, possible. But sadly, too many of us are stuck in our comfort zones and have come to love our sins; we have put down our gauntlets and prefer not to resist and fight back. Soon we forget how. Pay heed: If you are not struggling daily to increase your relationship with G-d, to refine your character and to bring His light into the world with your unique gifts, you are not living, you are merely existing and slowly or quickly dying. Don’t be a comfort-zone-Jew. Stop getting caught up in the secularism, materialism and lusts of this world and forsaking your Jewish identity and duty. Coronavirus has surely taught us all the things that we can live without. G-d is not one of them. The Torah wasn’t just bequeathed to rabbis, it’s your heritage too. Pretend it’s the millions your parent’s bequeathed you and cling to it greedily, for it is worth much more.
There is a famous excuse: “I wasn’t brought up religious.” Well many of us weren’t brought up rich either and yet that’s still a popular pursuit. In this week’s Torah reading of Pinchas we are introduced to four situations where people were born into a “situation” but it didn’t dictate or assure their journey in life. I will focus on one, the transference of Moses’ leadership to Joshua. Moses had sons, why didn’t one of them get the job? Because being a Torah Jew isn’t about nepotism; not your father, or yesterday’s victories, or last week’s donations, or the plaque in the synagogue with your grandfather’s name or all your hoity-toity connections in the world are going to make you the person you need to be. Only you can do that yourself by living day to day, from struggle to struggle, by recognizing you are not struggling alone and that the power of G-d is with you. And if you live in FAITH instead of fear, falsehood and fleshpots, you just might find you have invented many of your struggles altogether. Win the moments and you win life. YOU are Israel! You may struggle with G-d and man, but you can prevail--SO PREVAIL!