| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: Little things, big consequences

Posted on 22 September 2016 by LeslieM

Have you ever been faced with opposing but equally intriguing points of view? Take the perspective of small things for example. Some will say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” while others will tell you that “little things mean a lot.” We’ve all heard a variation of “He can’t see the forest for the trees” countered by “the devil is in the details.” One side recommends paying attention to the small things, while the other advises prioritizing what is most important, and keeping the big picture in mind. How is one to determine which option to take? Both propositions sound reasonable, and in our hurried way of life we are reluctant to spend more time than necessary on anything.

I think a good measure of discernment is necessary to correctly manage the small stuff/big stuff conundrum that we will all occasionally face.

Discernment is the ability to distinguish between good and bad, between an investment and a mere expense, between short-term pleasure and long-term benefit, and other such contrasting facts and experiences of life. Our maturity as adults is often demonstrated in our ability to make those kinds of distinctions. Some are easy to make, of course, but there are others that will require more thought and deliberation.

A tiny scratch on the car door might not be a big deal, but a tiny spot of oil on the driveway can signal a serious problem. It may seem a small thing to be cordial when registering a complaint with customer service but it may mean the difference between satisfaction and exasperation. Little things have the potential to become big things or to impact the big picture. All the more reason to pay more attention to them rather than dismissing them offhand. In business and relationships the small things add up and can affect our advancement, promotion, and success.

In Matthew 23:23-24, Jesus rebuked some of the religious leaders for emphasizing minor issues while neglecting weightier matters. He called them “blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!” The point is that proper discernment and careful attention will enable us to give both big and small issues the appropriate value. After all, the big picture is a collaboration of the small details as they are understood, organized, managed and executed.

I loved to read Aesop’s fables when I was a child. As I’ve grown older, the stories and their meaning have taken on greater importance. The story of Androcles and the Lion tells how the slave Androcles escaped and sought refuge in the forest. He happened upon a Lion groaning in pain and faced with continuing his escape or tending to the wounded animal, he paused to remove a thorn from its paw. Later both the slave and the Lion were captured, with Androcles sentenced to death by being thrown to the hungry Lion.

The anticipated slaughter took an unexpected turn when the Lion raced toward Androcles intent upon devouring him until it recognized him as the kind stranger who had eased to his pain. The Lion licked his face with affection, and caused the Emperor to demand an explanation. Upon hearing the story, both Androcles and the Lion were set free. The slave’s little thing, pausing to tend to the wounded animal, led to a bigger consequence: his life and his freedom.

May God give us the wisdom and the grace to properly discern between the various matters of our lives, and to give the appropriate attention to both the big issues and the small things that we face. May we discover that what Jesus said in Luke 16:10 was true, “He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much.”

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Be like a tree

Posted on 15 September 2016 by LeslieM

Ki Hoadam Eitz Hasode” – a Man is likened to a tree, (Deuteronomy 20:19.)

But Why? Why are we compared to a tree? Isn’t there a more befitting metaphor?

There are people who only leave an impact when there is no major heat, warmth and passion in their lives. When the game is waning and there is not much action going on, they become sensible. In the morning and evening hours, when they are very young or quite old, when things are quiet and calm, they are ready to give of themselves to others and invest in eternity. As long as the sun in their life is burning hot, they are too caught up in themselves to reflect on how they are impacting others.

When are you coming home dad?” our children ask us. And the answer: When the sun begins to set. When I get older, and finally make it, when I retire, then I will begin to spend time with my children, with my soul, with my G-d, with my spouse.

The problem is that those who needed our shade and our comfort during those days, don’t needed as much now when the sun has began to set. They missed the opportunity…

However, there is a life which can be likened to the shadow of a tree. Under the branches of a tree, you can always find shade and comfort. No matter if its morning, midday or evening, the tree always casts its healing shade and invites every passerby to bask in its tranquil and reinvigorating environment.

This represents the type of person who never ceases to remember that he or she is an ambassador of G-d at this very moment to bring light, clarity and love to the people around him and her. No matter where he or she stands in life – if the sun is just rising, or its fully aglow, or it is on its way down – this person never fails to be a leader, to serve as an agent of love, hope and trust. This person does not get drunk on his own accomplishments, but remembers his duty to those around him, the loved ones, to community, to our nation, and to our world.

The Talmud relates the following story:

An old man was planting a tree. A young person passed by and asked, What are you planting?

A carob tree, the old man replied.

Silly fool, said the youth. Don’t you know that it takes 70 years for a carob tree to bear fruit?

That’s okay, said the old man. Just as others planted for me, I plant for future generations.

Friends, are you and I “planting” something in our lives which our grandchildren will be able to look at and say, “Thank you grandpa; thank you grandma?” That is why the Torah compared us to the tree in the field.

Is your jar full?

A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly, he picked up a very large and empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full. The students responded with a unanimous “Yes.”

The professor then produced two cans of beer from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar, effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed.

Now,” said the professor, as the laughter subsided, “I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life.

The golf balls are the important things — your G-d, your soul, your family, your children, your health, your friends, your passions, your conscience — things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full.

The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else — the small stuff.”

If you put the sand into the jar first,” he continued, “there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to build a relationship with your soul, with your spouse. There will always be time to clean the house and fix the disposal. Take care of the golf balls first, the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.”

When he had finished, there was a profound silence. Then one of the students raised her hand and with a puzzled expression, inquired what the beer represented.

The professor smiled. “I’m glad you asked. It just goes to show you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of L’chayim’s.”

As we approach the High Holidays we must take inventory of our deeds. We must realize that to be a tree is to give shade to those around us no matter what type of leaves or fruits we may or may not have.

Join a community, help others, give of your time, give of your money; just make sure your sharing your shade.

Join us for the High Holidays at our new location. Call to reserve: 347-410-1106. Email: tzvidechter@gmail.com.

Membership not required.

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CLERGY CORNER: Criss Cross Crash Theology

Posted on 08 September 2016 by LeslieM

If you were like me as a kid, Christmas morning was the most anticipated morning of the year. I would toss and turn all night until about 4 a.m. when I would embark upon the mission of waking my parents — year after year to no avail.

In my 12th year of life, there was added expectancy. I was confident Santa Claus would deliver the year’s hottest toy: a Hot Wheels Criss Cross Crash track set. Undoubtably by 9 a.m., my Hot Wheels cars would be whirling along the clover-shaped track, zooming through one of four intersecting “crash zones.” Months of agonizing waiting would finally come to bear its fruit in the form of epic crashes.

Santa delivered, both figuratively and literally. An overwhelming sense of happiness burst forth as I ripped the wrapping paper to reveal my Criss Cross Crash track set. The moment had arrived. Immediately I began to build the track. Wait a minute. This can’t be right. Where is it? It has to be here! No. No! These were my thoughts as I realized that one piece of track was missing. I had, for the most part, lost every little league baseball game up until this point in my life, and yet somehow, this moment was considerably more deflating.

As soon as the stores re-opened my dad and I went to make an exchange only to experience calamity number two: No Criss Cross track sets in stock. In this moment of crushing disappointment, somehow I found myself in the BB gun section of the store with my dad asking the most glorious question of all, “Would you rather have a BB gun?” Life changed forever. Criss Cross Crash would fall to the bottom of the memory pit — forgotten, thanks to my new Daisy pump-action BB gun rifle, and the countless hours spent protecting my backyard from an invasion of GI Joe and Ninja Turtle action figures — and my sister’s New Kids on the Block figurine.

I learned a valuable lesson that Christmas: Sometimes you have to give up something you love for something you love more. And 15 years later, God would have me revisit this wisdom.

During my mid-20s, I came across Pastor Craig Groeschel’s book titled Chazown: Define Your Vision. Pursue Your Passion. Live Your Life on Purpose. Pastor Craig uses the Venn Diagram method to reveal how when our spiritual gifts, core values and past experiences merge, we discover a clearer understanding of our God-given purpose. It was through much prayer, meditation and wise counsel that I discovered my God-given purpose.

At age of 27, I gave up something I loved (flying commercially) for something I loved more (investing in the next generation).

Too often we are afraid to fully surrender to the will of God citing the example of the wealthy ruler who asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18). When Jesus instructed him to sell all his possessions, we know that he left sorrowful, unwilling to give up what he loved—in his case, wealth (Luke 18:22-23). We fear Jesus will ask us the same of us regarding whatever it is we choose to love more than Him. But when we grasp the magnitude of Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross, we will acknowledge that the things we love are “worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:7-8). It is in this revelation that our response will differ from the sorrowful ruler as we willfully give up the things we love for the One we love more to live the purpose God has for our life — knowing everything we need can be found in the provisions of our Savior. He is all we need.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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Posted on 01 September 2016 by LeslieM

Elul, the last month of the Jewish year, is a time of paradox.

The Jewish calendar distinguishes between two qualities of time: “mundane” work days, and “holy” days, such as Shabbat and the festivals. Shabbat is a day we are not involved with all material endeavors, a day devoted to the spiritual pursuits of study and prayer. The festivals likewise transcend time, each providing its unique spiritual quality to the journeyer through calendar and life.

In this respect, the month of Elul resembles the “holy” portions of the calendar. Elul is a haven in time, a “city of refuge” from the ravages of material life, a time to audit one’s spiritual accounts and assess the year gone by, to prepare for the “Days of Awe” of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur by repenting the failings of the past and resolving for the future, to immerse oneself in Torah study, as well as prayer and charitable activities. Elul is the opportune time for all this because it is a month in which G-d relates to us in a more open and compassionate manner than He does in the other months of the year. In the terminology of Kabbalah, it is a time when G-d’s “13 attributes of mercy” illuminate His relationship with us.

And yet, unlike Shabbat and the festivals, the days of Elul are workdays. On Shabbat, the Torah commands us to cease all materially constructive work. The festivals, too, are days on which “work” is forbidden. Regarding the month of Elul, however, there are no such restrictions. The transcendent activities of Elul are conducted amidst our workday lives in the field, shop or office.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains the paradox of Elul with the following metaphor: The king’s usual place is in the capital city, in the royal palace. Anyone wishing to approach the king must go through the appropriate channels in the palace bureaucracy and gain the approval of a succession of royal secretaries and ministers. He must journey to the capital and pass through the many gates, corridors and antechambers that lead to the throne room. His presentation must be meticulously prepared, and he must adhere to an exacting code of dress, speech and mannerism upon entering into the royal presence.

However, there are times when the king comes out to the fields outside the city. At such times, anyone can approach him; the king receives them all with a smiling face and a radiant countenance. The peasant behind his plow has access to the king in a manner unavailable to the highest ranking minister in the royal court when the king is in the palace.

The month of Elul, says Rabbi Schneur Zalman, is when the king is in the field.

When the farmer sees the king in his field, does he keep on plowing? Does he behave as if this were just another day in the fields? Of course not. Elul is not a month of ordinary workdays it is a time of increased Torah study, more fervent prayer, more generosity and charity. The very air is charged with holiness. We might still be in the field, but the field has become a holier place.

On the other hand, when the farmer sees the king in his field, does he run home to wash and change? Does he rush to the capitol to school himself in palace protocol? The king has come to the field, to commune with the processors of his bread in their environment and on their terms.

In the month of Elul, the essence and objective of life becomes that much more accessible. No longer do the material trappings of life conceal and distort its purpose, for the king is paying a visit. But unlike the holy days of the year, when we are lifted out of and above our workday lives, the encounter of Elul is hosted by our physical selves, within our material environment, on our workingman’s terms. — (Based on an address by the Chabad Rebbe on August 25, 1990.)

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: A post-summer reset

Posted on 25 August 2016 by LeslieM

The end of summer brings an opportunity for new beginnings in a variety of ways. School children heading back to classes prepare for new lessons, projects, exams, and the like. Moving up a grade usually means meeting new teachers and possibly new classmates. Transitioning from elementary to middle school, or from middle school to high school means learning your way around a new environment, along with taking new classes and making new friends. For teachers and support staff, the experience is similar. There are new kids to work with, new schedules to keep, and sometimes new educational standards to be implemented.

Parents go through a reset as well. Vacation days with great summer experiences have ended. Kids are out of the house and back in school. There are forms to be filled out and bus routes to confirm. Traffic for the morning commute to work increases, along with anxiety levels during the ride. These end-of -summer rituals predictably occur as most of us make the adjustments both physically and emotionally. Even nature prepares to bid farewell to summer in order to make room for autumn. Change, transition, adjustment and renewal are all around us at this time of year.

Most of the year has passed at this point and we are looking at just a few months left. At the beginning of the year, many people made plans and set goals to be accomplished. Now is a great time to review and assess and to make adjustments, if necessary. The opportunity to reset or begin anew at the end of summer gives us a chance to confirm which goals are most important, and to focus on the things that matter most. Even challenging circumstances may provide us with new lessons, different options, and a change in direction.

There is a movement among churches to capture this sense of renewal at the end of summer by inviting congregants back to church. Attendance usually diminishes during the summer months, causing some churches to adopt a summer schedule of fewer services. As vacation days come to an end and the kids head back to school, people are encouraged to reconnect with the fellowship and worship that church offers. There is even a national “Back to Church Campaign” that provides resources and ideas to congregations that desire to reach out to regular attendees as well as attract new people.

In all of life’s pursuits none should be considered more important than the development of our faith. Connecting with God and finding your purpose through Him is a very rewarding experience. I was impressed with several of the athletes who publicly gave thanks to God for their victories in the recent Olympics. They acknowledged that their abilities were granted by Him and rightly gave God the glory. Even some who came up short offered thanks for the opportunity to compete at such a high profile level.

As we say goodbye to the summer months and adjust to the coming season, why not reset our spiritual lives as well. If you’ve been out of church, or out of contact with your community of faith, why not reconnect and reaffirm your relationship with God. Bring the entire family and make a purposeful decision to move forward with faith, focus and gratitude. Seize these new days, and this new season, with a fresh attitude.

May you discover the joy of the Psalm (96:1) who declared “O sing to the Lord a new song! Sing to the Lord all the earth.” There is much more to experience and enjoy in life. Sometimes all you need is to reset.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Accepting a bribe

Posted on 18 August 2016 by LeslieM

A government official was arrested for accepting a bribe from a contractor. A friend who went to visit him in the lock-up asked, “How are you going to get out of this mess?”

The official replied calmly, “I got into trouble for accepting a bribe; I will get out of it by giving it.”

Five daughters petition

It is a puzzling story—the tale of the five daughters of Tzelafchad, recorded in the portion of Pinchas.

Tzelafchad was a Jewish man, of the generation born in Egyptian slavery, liberated by the Exodus, and granted the Land of Canaan as Israel’s heritage. Although that generation did not merit to take possession of the land themselves, when their children crossed the Jordan River to conquer it, they did so as their fathers’ heirs. Each family received its share in the land in accordance with its apportionment among the 600,000 members of the generation of the Exodus.

Tzelafchad had five daughters but no sons. The laws of inheritance as they were initially given in the Torah, which recognized only male heirs, in which sons inherit from their fathers and they are responsible to fully support the widow and daughters as long as they do not marry. In this case, there were no sons to inherit Tzelafchad’s portion in the Land. The daughters refused to reconcile themselves to this situation, and approached Moses with the petition.

They stood before Moses and before Eleazar the Kohen and before the chieftains and the entire congregation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, saying, “Our father died in the desert, but he was not in the assembly that banded together against G-d in Korah’s assembly, but he died for his own sin, and he had no sons.”

Why should our father’s name be eliminated from his family because he had no son? Give us a portion along with our father’s brothers.”

So Moses brought their case before G-d.

God spoke to Moses, saying: “The daughters of Tzelafchad have a just claim. Give them a hereditary portion of land alongside their father’s brothers. Let their father’s hereditary property thus pass over to them.”

The correct decision for this question requires no more than simple logic. What else should be done with the piece of land belonging to Tzelafchad? Should it be transferred to someone who is not related to him? It would not make sense to have his brothers receive it, because, as mentioned according to Torah law, orphaned daughters need to be supported by the brothers until they marry, during which time they live in their father’s estate now inherited by the brothers. In our case, when there were no brothers, and all of the women were single, where would they live? Who would support them? If they do not inherit any part of the land or their father’s possessions, they will remain homeless and destitute. That is senseless. Logic dictates that the daughters should inherit their father’s piece of land — and logic is the way we deduce the intricacies of Torah law. Why then did Moses feel it necessary to bring this seemingly obvious ruling directly to G-d and not even begin to seek an answer?

Moses’ Integrity

If we are to look at how they presented their case, they prefaced, “Our father died in the desert. He was not among the members of Korach’s party who protested against G-d, but he died because of his own sin without leaving any sons.”

This detail is the key to it all. Korach staged a ferocious rebellion against Moses. He saw Moses as his arch-enemy and attempted to rally up the entire nation against Moses. Korach claimed that Moses was a power-hungry demagogue who craved nothing but absolute control and authority. The moment Moses heard the daughters say that their father was not part of Korach’s mutiny he felt that his psyche has just become bias toward them and their father. This was a verbal bribe, subtle as it may be, and he might not be fully objective in his decision.

The Lesson

This is the level of self-awareness G-d asks of us. Don’t be perfect, but be accountable. Don’t be flawless, but be honest with yourself. Realize how subjective and bias you may be on any given issue, perhaps beyond realizing it. Thus, always retain your humility, allow yourself to be challenged, listen to another perspective, and be open to the truth that you may really be wrong.

If Moses at the peak of his life felt that no matter his standing, a small compliment from five sisters can alter his objectivity and distort his sense of truth. Certainly you and I must ask ourselves, “Maybe there is another perspective?” “Maybe my wife has a point?” “Maybe my mother-in-law is in the right?” Okay, let’s not push it… but “maybe my husband has a point?” “Maybe I need an outside opinion?”

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Confessions of a regional pilot

Posted on 11 August 2016 by LeslieM

At the time of writing this article, the population of the United States is 324,192,360. Of those, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 130,000 of them are employed as a commercial or airline pilot. That means only .0004 percent of the U.S. population fly cargo or people professionally. If you were to attend a sold-out Yankees game, of the 54,251 spectators, statistically there are only 22 pilots in the stands. That’s three less people than one team’s active roster! It’s a prestigious career with few completing the extensive training, unrelenting testing and demands that professional pilots experience. I know this because I was one — a captain by age 24, even.

Six years after my departure from the airline industry people still ask, “What kind of plane did you fly?” And when I reply that I operated the CRJ-200, a 50-seat regional jet, forget what I wrote above. I might as well have said that I pulled a Radio Flyer wagon behind my Big Wheel and, yet, some would still consider that the more prestigious.

Easily disregarded by the public is the fact that regional aircraft and crew are held to the same certification and reliability standards as the mainline carriers, which is proven by the regional airlines’ exceedingly unprecedented safety and reliability record. Also ignored, regional pilots — one could argue — possess surpassing “stick-and-rudder” skills as a direct result of the increased amount of operations in what is statistically considered the most dangerous part of the flight which is the take-off and landing (or terminal) environment. Finally, consider how the regional jet has positively impacted the market for the customer by expanding to service smaller cities and providing greater schedule flexibility. Yet, no one wants to fly on the “tiny” jets — the scourge of the industry. Vacation, yes; via a regional jet, no.

As a pastor, the size game continues. How many people go to your church? How many youth went on the summer trip? How many students attend the Wednesday night experience? Numbers, numbers, numbers! In aviation, you’re not a real pilot until you’ve flown a plane with 100 seats or more. And in ministry, you’re not a real pastor until your weekly attendance exceeds 2000 with the additional “pastor street credential” bonus for being multi-site.

Please hear me; I believe God has, and will, use varying church styles and sizes. But what’s being increasingly neglected by church-goers is the focus of what’s most important in the ministry — Christ. Somewhere we’ve come to measure the health and success of a church solely by two metrics: attendance and giving. Can these two be indicators of health or deficiency either way? Yes, they can. But should they be the sole qualifiers? I say absolutely not! As recorded in Matthew 7:20, Jesus says, “[Just] as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.”

Timothy Keller, in Shaped By the Gospel, writes, “The most important [action taken] is that a ministry be faithful to the Word and sound in doctrine,” with Christ at the center. We must resist the temptation to be ensnared by shallow number-crunching and instead hold fast to the promise of what God desires to accomplish through a handful of people fully surrendered to His will.

It is we, who call ourselves Christians, that have been commissioned to gather as the body, the Church, and to be known by our actions. We are people with a “passion for His presence, a deep craving to reach the lost, sincere integrity, Spirit-led faith, down-to-earth humility,” and a recognition of our own “brokenness” (It: How Churches and Leaders Can Get It and Keep It, Craig Groeschel).

When we act in such a way, we’ll see rebellious hearts turn toward God and He will “add to the Church” because we abandoned seat-counting and returned to devoting ourselves “to the apostles’ teaching, and to fellowship, and to sharing in meals (including the Lord’s Supper), and to prayerActs 2:38-47.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at First Baptist Church of Deerfield Beach. Before transitioning into full-time ministry, CJ was a commercial airline captain and high school leadership and science teacher. For questions or comments he can be reached at cj@deerfieldfirst.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: The Light of Redemption

Posted on 04 August 2016 by LeslieM

A friend recently shared with me the following personal story: My business had run so successfully for the last 10 years, I thought I was headed for an early retirement. But the last six months have completely shattered that hope. My business went down big time. I went from being CEO of a large company to searching for part-time work in the classifieds online. Almost overnight, my fortunes made a 180 degree turn and I can no longer enjoy the luxurious lifestyle I once had. I no longer own a holiday home. I sold my yacht and am struggling to be able to hold on to the family home.

But with all this going on, something weird has happened. Everyone around me expected me to fall apart. I had been a workaholic. My business was my life and seeing that go down should have meant that I go down with it. But I didn’t. In fact, just the opposite happened. With less work on my plate, I now have more time to spend with my family. And guess what? I enjoy it. I have gotten to know my 8-year-old daughter better than ever, because I have the space to listen to her. I used to be at the office until 10 or 11 p.m., but now I am home to put the kids to bed, read them a story and give them a goodnight kiss. I used to eat Chinese takeout at my computer every night, but now I sit and eat with my family, hearing about their day and sharing mine with them. I have even started taking walks with my wife like we did when we were newlyweds.

I have come to realize what is really important and where my time and energy should really be spent. Thank G-d I went broke. Otherwise I’d be so rich, and yet so poor. I might have had everything, but I would have had nothing…

This is the white cheese that sometimes comes from the black goat, and the white egg that the black hen lays. We have all seen it, in our own lives and in the lives of those around us. The illness that brings us a deeper perspective in life, the relationship breakdown that allows us to find true love and humility, the passing of a loved one that gives us new appreciation of our short time in this world and the spirituality of life. What the soul understands is that there are two forms of light – light that appears as light and light that appears as darkness. The good times are good. The tough times are there for us to make them good. “Problems are only opportunities with thorns.”

Henny Youngman said: “You know why Jews don’t drink? It interferes with their suffering.” But he was wrong — on two counts. First, many Jews do drink… Second, we don’t want pain. We would rather not have to go through the tough times. We don’t seek out suffering, even if it will make us stronger. We would rather learn the lessons and gain the inspiration we need through pleasant and comfortable means, not through pain. It would be wonderful if all eggs could be born from white hens. But the reality of life is that we all have our share of challenges, difficulties and trials. And as long as that is the case, the human response to life’s challenges is to make them a springboard for positive change.

It is during this time of year, the three weeks of mourning for the Jewish Temples, that we focus on this powerful idea. Destruction is a step toward rebuilding and failure is a chance to regroup and get our strength back. We all go through black times. We all get knocked over and we all fall. But “failure is not falling down, it is staying down.” As Jews, we know that we must get back up, shake off the dust and keep on “laying eggs.”

The Three Weeks, from a Jewish perspective, are like the Black Hole in modern physics, which is filled with endless light, but does not allow it to escape its pull. (A black hole is a region of space in which the gravitational field is so powerful that nothing, including light, can escape its pull.) Our job is to penetrate the black hole and reveal its inner light, the light of Messiah.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of the North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Living with hope in difficult times

Posted on 28 July 2016 by LeslieM

Our world is in chaos. Increasing violence both at home and abroad has many living in fear and anxiety. Terrorist attacks upon innocent people, conflict between police and citizens, political upheaval, racial and religious aggression, all of these are signs of the difficult times in which we live. Nature’s occasional display of destructive force, and the reality of climate change add to the apprehension that many feel.

The truth is that every generation has had challenges that seemed to signal the end of life and erosion of society as we know it. There have always been wars, conflict, aggression and violence. The only difference between now and earlier times is the speed at which information from around the world is delivered. The 24 hour news cycle and instantaneous social media coverage keep us hopping from one report of tragedy to the next.

Jesus predicted the increased awareness of trouble during the week before His crucifixion. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows (Matt. 24:6-8). Even Paul, the apostle, forewarned of the perilous times that would come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Timothy 3:1-4).

In light of the predictions and realities of our present time, many have adopted a fatalistic view of the future and man’s hopes. Doomsday scenarios abound that see humanity devolving into a dystopian type of existence after some global tragedy caused by war, climate change, or computer malfunction (remember the Y2K hysteria?).

But it is possible and advisable to live life with hope concerning the future. Both Jesus and Paul gave encouragement following their predictions so that men could avoid giving in to despair but live with hope. The disciples were told to watch for these signs, and to make themselves ready for their Lord to return. Timothy was encouraged to continue in what he had learned, and to be faithful despite what would come.

We may not have the power to prevent others from thinking and doing evil things but we can control how each of us lives individually. Why not be true to each other and to God? Live honest and upright by treating each other with dignity, and having compassion on the less fortunate. Give room for differences of opinion and ideology while seeking to coexist peaceably. Why not strive to make yourself and the world around you better? I have noticed that even as war, tragedy, conflict and aggression has raged over the centuries, advancements and breakthrough have also occurred for the betterment of our existence.

Why not be part of the next great discovery, achievement, or invention? The world can always use another great thinker, leader or discoverer. We don’t all have to become victims of the perilous times in which we live.

The worst of times can indeed also be the best of times, if we decide to give our best to making the best of what we have. You can either be part of the good in life, or give yourself to that which is bad. It is my hope and my prayer that you will choose to be part of that which is good.

Bishop Patrick L. Kelly is the pastor of Cathedral Church of God, 365 S. Dixie Hwy., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. 954-427-0302.

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CLERGY CORNER: Curses vs Blessings

Posted on 28 July 2016 by LeslieM

The portion of Balak tells the fascinating story of Bilaam, a prophet, who was summoned by the Moabite king to curse Israel. In the end, in lieu of curses, the prophet gushes forth the most splendid poetry ever written about the uniqueness and destiny of the Jewish people. His poetry has become classic, a wellspring of inspiration for thousands of years, recited daily in Jewish liturgy and prayers.

Yet there is something profoundly confusing about the narrative. The Bible relates how the emissaries arrive from Moab and Midian. They state their mission: They want Bilaam to curse the Israelites. Bilaam tells them to stay the night, while he consults with G-d. G-d’s answer is unequivocal: “G-d said to Balaam, ‘Do not go with them. You must not put a curse on those people, because they are blessed.’” Bilaam obeys. He refuses to go. Balak, the Moabite king, redoubles his efforts. Perhaps more distinguished messengers and the promise of significant reward will persuade Balaam to change his mind.

He sends a second set of emissaries. Bilaam’s reply is moving: “Even if Balak gave me his palace filled with silver and gold, I could not do anything great or small to go beyond the command of the Lord my G-d.”

However, he adds a fateful rider: “Now stay here tonight as the others did, and I will find out what else G-d will tell me.”

The implication is clear. Bilaam is suggesting that G-d may change His mind. But this is impossible. That is not what G-d does. Yet, to our surprise, that is exactly what G-d seems to do: That night G-d came to Bilaam and said, “Since these men have come to summon you, go with them, but do only what I tell you.”

Bilaam followed G-d’s latest instruction. He got up in the morning, saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab. “But G-d was very angry when he went, and the angel of G-d stood in the road to oppose him.”

The narrative now shifts to the famous scene of Bilaam’s donkey. What is going on here? Why did G-d change His mind four times?! First G-d says no, than it becomes yes, then it is no again, and finally it’s a yes! What was Bilaam suppose to do? Not go? But G-d told him explicitly to go. The story seems like an unfair setup for Bilaam. G-d tells him to go, and then gets angry at him for going!

Initially G-d prevented Bilaam from cursing because “the nation is blessed.” Therefore, he says “Do not go with them”. Bilaam passed along this message of G-d, but Balak did not believe him, and proceeded to increase to honor him with greater messengers and promised him greater reward. Bilaam answered the second group that the issue is not the money, and it is not up to him, rather it is up to G-d. He agreed to inquire again what G-d will command him. In this, he conducted himself properly, because Bilaam knew the Higher Knowledge, and that G-d’s advice is always good. Now G-d told him: “I already told you that this nation is blessed and unable to be cursed. Now, why have they, Balak’s ministers, returned to you? If they only want you to go with them and not curse at all, then get up and go with them, but only the word that I place in your mouth shall you do, and even if I command you to bless them you must bless them without being afraid of Balak.

So G-d wanted Bilaam to go with the ministers after telling them first that He would not be able to curse the Jews, and would only follow G-d’s instructions.

G-d wanted that the Jews be blessed by a prophet of the non-Jews. Bilaam was supposed to tell all of this to the ministers of Balak. However, Balak specified the second time as well, “Come, please curse this nation.” He only wanted Billam to curse, not prophesize or anything else.

But, Bilaam, in his overeagerness to go, did not tell them any of this and, instead, “he woke up early in the morning, saddled his own donkey, and went with them” as if he was going to fulfill their request.

From here, you see that “man is led down the path he wishes to travel” because, originally, Bilaam was told “Do not go with them” but since he had audacity, he went. That is why it says “G-d’s wrath flared because he was going.”

G-d said to him: “Wicked one! I do not want the destruction of the wicked, but since you insist on your own destruction, by all means, go!”

Choose your path wisely!

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the Director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches. New location coming soon. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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