| Clergy Corner

CLERGY CORNER: A different kind of hero

Posted on 19 July 2017 by LeslieM

When God saw what they (Ninevah) did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.”

(Jonah 3:10 NRSV)

Full disclosure, I like comic books. I like comic book heroes. And one of the things I enjoy doing with my family is going to see superhero movies. This summer has produced some pretty great movies and, as a religious leader, I see all kinds of great material that I can use on a Sunday morning.

The Bible is filled with great stories that have inspired great comic book writers. These are stories about heroes and villains, and heroic rescues filled with action and suspense. If you like reading the Bible, you probably enjoy a good comic book now and then.

I have noticed something about comic books and superheroes, as well as villains. While, on occasion, we may stumble across a super hero lacking virtue of a misunderstood villain some gray area may be interjected for plausibility now and then. But, by and large, superheroes are good and villains are bad. But when the superhero captures a villain, a part of us rejoices. Good has defeated evil.

And the victims who find themselves in trouble — the damsels in distress, the kitty who is caught up in the tree, the child hanging on to a cliff — we love to see the hero swoop down from the sky and rescue them. The damsels are always beautiful, the kitties are always cuddly and the child is always cute.

But what if the enemy is the one who needs to be rescued? What if Lex Luthor was dangling from a cliff? Would Superman swoop down and rescue him? What if the Joker or Penguin were trapped by a bear, would Batman come by and rescue his arch enemies? There is a part of us that would say “good riddance.” But that is not how God operates.

I love the story of Jonah, the reluctant hero. He was called by God to rescue the people of Nineveh. Nineveh was the major trade city of the Assyrians, the enemies of the people of Israel. Jonah doesn’t want to do it. He would rather be swallowed by a giant fish than tell the people of Nineveh to repent.

Yet, he was ordered by God to be prophetic and tell the people in this pagan city to repent. After he delivered the message, he waited on the outskirts for calamity. He was even looking forward to their demise. But, something happened that really disappointed Jonah, they repented and God changed his mind.

It was clear that Jonah saw Nineveh as evil, the enemy, people he hated. God loved the people of Nineveh.

The story goes against our comic book sensibilities. But, the words of St. Paul echo the sentiment of Jonah.

Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person — though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.”

(Romans 5:7)

Did God send his son when we deserved it? No, “While we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8)

Perhaps it is time to write the comic book that has yet to be written. Heroes rescue villains. [Editor’s Note: Dear Pastor Gross … watch the new Spiderman movie]. Unworthy people are saved. Rescued people aren’t always grateful. But wait; that book exists.

We do find ourselves guilty, now and then, thinking that we have earned the right to be rescued. Like Jonah, we cheer for the demise of our enemies and flatter ourselves into believing we are better, or loved more by God, or worthy of God’s love. The message of the Bible is distinctly different than the message of the comic book hero. In comic books, the villains have no humanity and the ones who are rescued have earned the right to be rescued by being innocent, adorable or nice.

The one dimensional lines of a comic book meet the multi-dimensional reality of the world where villains are created in the image of God and damsels in distress are sinful and unclean. Superman will rescue some, but God sends the ultimate hero to rescue all.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Fearing going to the dentist & fearing going to church — two things you cannot afford to do

Posted on 12 July 2017 by LeslieM

One particular scene in the movie Deepwater Horizon is oddly convicting. Jimmy Harrell, while in command of the oil rig, voices his dissatisfaction to BP executives for skipping the necessary tests required to verify the integrity of the well—accusing them of playing dumb toward any problems that might further delay completion of the drilling. Jimmy aptly compares their motive to his grandfather’s logic about not going to the dentist in that he “never went to the dentist ‘cause he didn’t wanna know all that was wrong ‘cause then he’d have to deal with it.”

Up until last week, for 14 plus years, I confess that I evaded the dentist myself to deny what I knew I’d have to deal with: cavities. So I bit the bullet — with my good teeth — and scheduled an appointment.

I had two cavities in need of immediate care: one onlay and one crown. Post drilling and being fitted with my temporary cap, the dental hygienist listed all the foods I would have to abstain from until my permanent fitting — essentially my grocery list: pizza and chewy candy. One day later, the temporary cap fell victim to a Mike and Ike while watching Despicable Me 3. Whoops.

Thankfully, my dentist provided me with his personal cell and instructed me to call him if I experienced any problems —probably more for pain than stupidity. After an exhaustive Google search, it was apparent that I’d have to contact him. Flashbacks flooded my mind of my pediatric orthodontist towering over me with that disappointed look on his face each time I lost or destroyed a retainer. How would my new dentist respond?

While my thumbs were busy crafting a text message, I couldn’t help but feel burdensome for disturbing my new dentist on a Saturday. I hit send and awaited my fate. Moments later, I received a reply that started with “Hi buddy,” followed by a compassionate response. He even encouraged me to “reach out again if anything else comes up.” Whoa. And just like that all my false beliefs from childhood about going to the dentist vanished.

For many, the idea returning to church or going to church for the first time yields the similar emotions that I experienced about returning to the dentist: the fear of being judged; the pain that comes with change, etc. Yet, like my retainers, at some point we all find ourselves lost or broken knowing that we can no longer deny what’s wrong: the God-sized cavity in our heart, hoping we won’t have to deal with it.

We must recognize that it is Satan, the great deceiver, who is content to keep us deceived that we are not welcome in church or in the presence of God. He breathes life to those fears. Fear not! It is Jesus who said that “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17).

That’s the ultimate “Hi buddy” (relief) and embodiment of the compassion that should dispel the false narratives keeping us away from church and God. The ironic thing is that we take pride in our Instagram pics that don’t require a filter, while unaware that we’re filtering what we believe about church and God through our past experiences. To quote an old MADtv skit with Bob Newhart, “Stop it!” Colossians 3:1 reminds us that when we submit our hearts to Christ, we “have been raised to new life with Christ”— a life with the strength necessary to deal with — not avoid — the realities of life, and stand securely before God.

When I finally faced my reality, accepting that decay did exist, I knew there was nothing I could do except go to the one who could do something about it. Same goes for those of you considering returning to church or attending church for the first time. You don’t have to clean yourself up before returning or going. You just have to set aside any worry and go — like I did by going to the dentist; I had nothing — except my teeth.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: The Buck Stops Here

Posted on 06 July 2017 by LeslieM

There is a very moving episode in the Talmud about a man named Elazar Ben Dordaya. This man lived his life with an uninhibited desire to fulfill all of his promiscuous cravings, leaving no stone unturned in his pursuit. He was an addict of the worst kind.

In one particular encounter, the Talmud describes his travel to a distant land when he became aware of a woman he had not yet visited.

After paying a fortune for her services, she sighed and said, “As this breath will not return to its place, so too will Elazar Ben Dordaya never be received in repentance.”

She basically said to him … ‘Elazar, you are doomed… you have a one way ticket to hell!’

Shaken by her statement, the Talmud relates, Ben Dordaya panicked and searched for a way to redeem his life.

He sat between two mountains and hills and said, “Mountains and hills, request mercy for me.”

They couldn’t help him. There was silence.

He said, “Heavens and earth, request mercy for me.”

There was silence. They couldn’t help him.

He said, “Sun and moon … stars and constellations, request mercy for me.”

There was silence. They couldn’t help him.

The Talmud continues the story.

He then said, “This matter depends solely on me.”

He put his head between his knees and began to tremble from crying and remorse until he died. A heavenly voice came out and declared, “Rebbi Elazar Ben Dordaya is ready to enter the world-to-come.”

What does this story mean? Why is he asking mercy from mountains, stars, the sun and the moon? What did Elazar Ben Dordaya seek to achieve by turning to the heaven and earth, stars and constellations, mountains and hills for help? How are they going to assist him in repairing his promiscuous addiction?

My friends, what he was really saying is this, “Heaven and earth, my addictions, my problems, they are not my fault. They are the fault of my environment, my surroundings, my neighborhood. I blame heaven and earth. I grew up with no friends, no good support system; I was ridiculed. My heaven and earth, my surroundings, were cursed. Of course, I can’t be a good husband … I can’t be a good wife … It’s not my fault. I can’t be a mensch. Of course, I am an addict.”

There was silence.

Then he tried, “Mountains and valleys, ‘Harim Vegvaot.” [Harim also means Horim, parents; Gevaot are mountains, referring to our matriarchs, “Migvaot Ashureynu.”] “It’s not my fault; I had a dysfunctional home, terrible parents, and an awful upbringing. Yes, my father was a gambler and an alcoholic whom my mother was dependent. What do you want from me?”

There was silence.

And then he said, “Kochavim Umazalot — stars and constellations, sun and moon, help me. Some people say, ‘I don’t have a good karma, I have no mazal — no luck.’ Look at my astrological signs and you will see that I am prone to all bad things. My brother, he has a great job; he has good life. If I were like him, things would have been different. I would be such an understanding husband, a mature human being, a happy person, a calm person, a committed person, but my Karma really did me in. My zodiac ruined me!”

But again there was silence.

You know why? Because I am responsible for my life and my decisions. Because the buck stops here. I may have endured serious challenges, but I have the power of my divine soul to choose a good path in life. I cannot blame other people and situations. Happiness, goodness, kindness is my choice in life. I have the choice not to be dictated by fear and addiction, but rather by the desire to do the right thing.”

So the end of the story is that Elazar Ben Dordaya gave out a tremendous cry and he said, “This is my fault; this matter is not dependent on anybody else, not my environment, not my school, not my teachers, not my parents, not my karma. It’s me.

He gave such a scream that his soul left him, and a heavenly voice came out and said, “Elazar Ben Dordaya, no more will your name be Elazar Ben Dordaya, but Rabbi Elazar Ben Dordaya. You are now a Rabbi, a teacher. He has taught you and I, and all people, a lesson that no matter how hopeless a situation may be, I can change it, by taking responsibility for my life.

Rabbi Tzvi Dechter is the director of Chabad of North Broward Beaches, located in the Venetian Isle Shopping Center at 2025 E. Sample Rd. in Lighthouse Point. For all upcoming events, please visit www.JewishLHP.com.

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CLERGY CORNER: Our Lord’s Beautiful World

Posted on 29 June 2017 by LeslieM

Yes … the world our Lord gave us is beautiful in so many respects!

John Denver wasn’t the only one to see beauty in a rocky mountain high. We see it every day in the beautiful sunrises over our sandy Florida beaches. The Greek sculptor of the Venus de Milo wasn’t the only one to see beauty in the human form. We see it every day in the faces of those we meet. The pilgrims, on that first Thanksgiving Day, weren’t the only ones to be blessed by our Lord’s bounty. We are likewise blessed by the abundance spread before us at produce counters and farmers’ markets. We live in a beautiful, wonderful and abundant world created by our Lord. But it’s not always the paradise we would like it to be; so often, cruelty and anger hold sway. What is missing?

Saint John gives us a one word answer in his exquisitely crafted First Epistle, “God is love, and he that does not love, does not know God.” This simple statement is not a teaching about what love is, as much as an invitation to consider the effect of God’s love on our lives.

The first effect is to give us the assurance that we live in the hands of a benevolent God. If God is love, then it follows that He creates in love, rules in love and judges in love. His love is ever flowing in our lives, and, during those times when it seems He has turned his face from us, the reality is we have likely forsaken our trust in Him. Our assurance of God’s love, in good and bad times, is best realized directionally and positionally, that is, turning toward God on bended knees.

A second effect of God’s love is to make Him known to us. Theologians are quick to contend that knowing God is beyond the ability of the human mind; maybe so, but not beyond the potential of the human heart. God gave us hearts to power our bodies, but He also encoded our hearts to get and give love. Anyone who has ever been truly loved by another person, or anyone who has ever been willing to give their all for their beloved, has been given some hint of God’s love for us. We come closest to knowing God when we open our hearts and share our love with those with whom we share His Body. We can’t think our way to God with our minds; we can only approach Him with our hearts.

And, finally, a most important effect of God’s love, is that it helps dispel the shadow of fear that cruelty and anger casts over our beautiful world and over our individual lives. Dealing with our fears can be tricky because we can’t always eliminate their causes. One way God’s love helps us deal with them is by telling us over and over again that He will not let us “go it alone.” Holy Scripture, from beginning to end, teaches this truth about God’s love. The Old Testament tells us, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee” [Psalm 55:22]. The New Testament continues and expands on this teaching, “The God of all comfort; who comforts us in all our tribulation, so we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble” [1 Corinthians 1:3-4]. God created us, freed us from sin and teaches us what we need to know to spend eternity with Him … and He does it all with one word, love.

Johann Arndt, a man much smarter than me, once said, “At the Last Judgement, God will not ask us what we know, but rather how we have loved.” — Yes!

Rev. M. Tracy Smith, SSA, Rector is from the Saint Peter’s Anglican Church, 1416 SE 2 Terr., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-695-0336. Wednesday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m., Sunday: Holy Communion at 10 a.m.

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CLERGY CORNER: Do you know what you need?

Posted on 22 June 2017 by LeslieM

The story is told of King Midas who was granted one wish of his choosing. Being fond of treasure, he asked that whatever he touched would be turned into gold. With his wish granted, he began to touch everything that was common and watch it transform before his eyes. Cups, spoons, chairs and metal coins all now glittered and sparkled with golden brilliance. His delight with his new ability was soon turned to frustration and sorrow as he began to realize that he could not control this gift, for when he embraced his only daughter she turned into a lifeless statue of gold.

We have all imagined what we would do, should we be given the opportunity to have one wish granted. Some would ask for great sums of money; others would request houses or land; and maybe others would ask for fame and notoriety. Maturity teaches, however, that granted wishes are the object of childhood fantasies, and are the fodder for fairy tales and the imagination. It is mainly through hard work and diligent labor that we can attain the things that we desire.

There is something to be said though, of seeking God for favor and asking Him for specific blessings. The Bible indicates that God delights in, and longs for, our petitions and prayers. Unfortunately, some may have been led to believe that they will not receive the things that they request from God. His word assures us, however, that appropriate asking nets appropriate responses.

Ask, and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7). “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done unto you” (John 15:7).

To those who may argue that prayers are useless, James 4:2 cautions “You do not have what you want because you do not ask God for it. And when you ask, you do not receive it, because your motives are bad; you ask for things to use for your own pleasures.”

There is a need then, for the petitioner to make the kinds of requests that please God and secure His ready answer. Purely selfish motives will not be rewarded. When the intent is for the benefit of others and the glory of God, there is an opportunity for success.

In 1 Kings chapter three, Solomon was the newly established king of Israel. In succeeding his father, David, he differentiated himself from his brothers, Absalom and Adonijah. Rather than presumption and arrogance, he displays reverence and humility. He worships God and prays for wisdom to lead the nation.

In a dream one night (verse 5), God appeared to him and urged him, “Ask, what shall I give you?”

Solomon’s answer exposed his sincerity.

Therefore, give to your servant an understanding heart to judge your people, that I may discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of yours?” (verse 9).

It is recorded that God was pleased with Solomon’s request and granted him superior wisdom along with wealth and honor.

Our encouragement comes from knowing that, despite our inabilities and inadequacies, God stands ready to give us divine support to manage whatever tasks lay before us. In our weakness, He is able to provide strength, and cause us to succeed where others may expect us to fail. But we must ask Him, and believe that He will give us what we need. It is time to align our desires with His design, and to pursue His purposes in our living. Then we can be free to make our requests with the confidence that He will answer affirmatively. Like the mothers of the church in our faith, tradition would say, “tell Him what you need!”

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: Uniting the generations

Posted on 15 June 2017 by LeslieM

In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.”(Acts 2:17 and Joel 2:28 NRSV)

On Pentecost Sunday, we read Acts 2, as we always do, and heard Peter quote Joel 2:28 in his message to the pilgrims at Jerusalem. Among the many things I loved about his words, or Joel’s words, or God’s word, to be more exact, was the intergenerational vision of the church. Recognizing the gifts of the elderly and the young, the Holy Spirit definitely saw generations as interdependent. And, I have to say, there is a growing recognition within my denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, that cross-generational ministry is God’s vision for the church.

That being said, this wasn’t the way it has always been. I may have exacerbated that problem by some of the actions I took, not by accident, but very much on purpose. I separated the worship service into two. One service I called “traditional” and the other service I called “contemporary.” One service was a little more liturgical with the organ being the primary instrument. The second service was a little less liturgical and included guitars, drums, keyboards and singers. Naturally, I envisioned the older members would attend the “traditional” and the younger members would attend the “contemporary.” Every once in awhile, we would create cross-generational events, such as picnics, potlucks and, of course, the annual meeting.

At first, everybody fell in line with their age appropriate service. Peaceful coexistence and cooperation was maintained. But, as time went on, surprises started to occur.

The first surprise came with two elderly members who stopped attending the “traditional” worship service because they were, in their words, tired of the hymns. They liked guitars and drums, and they appreciated being surrounded by younger members.

At first, I thought that this was not going to end well. How would the young members receive them? Some chose the contemporary service specifically because of the younger population and now my service was beginning to “gray.” Well, as surprises go, the young people loved this couple. In fact, when the husband died, my 18-year-old daughter was beside herself in grief. His funeral was well-attended by the members of the youth group and the Praise Band played the music. His wife was delighted.

The second surprise came with a young family that attended the “traditional” service. The three young kids were all elementary age and the husband and wife were actually quite a bit younger than me. After the service was over, I took them aside and assured them that we had younger members and they attended the “contemporary” service. Looking back at this, I am ashamed to admit it. But the wife smiled and said, “Thanks, we prefer this service.”

Later, when the family attended the new member class, the wife shared what she appreciated about the church. She said, “With my parents in Illinois and my husband’s parents in Washington, we knew our kids would miss out not having their grandparents around. But the people we worship with are like grandparents to my children and we love it.”

As time went by, the contemporary service started to age and the traditional service started to get younger. The ages became less relevant and the services really distinguished themselves by style alone, as opposed to age preference.

One of the many things I love about Zion is that the young and older members truly do love each other. I may explore different styles of worship, but not to separate the ages. And I am exploring a Sunday School curriculum that is cross-generational in nature.

The Holy Spirit surprised the disciples, who spoke in different languages to the pilgrims who travelled to Jerusalem on Pentecost. The way the Holy Spirit chose to speak was in a manner that honored the diversity of cultures. Each heard the message in the language they spoke. And what was the message they heard? It was a cross-generational message honoring the elderly and the young.

May we be surprised by the Spirit and may those walls that separate the ages come tumbling down.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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CLERGY CORNER: Three ways your graduate can live a life worthy of their calling

Posted on 08 June 2017 by LeslieM

A study was conducted to measure the resiliency of young students. Researchers were curious to learn how a child would respond to increasingly difficult tasks based upon whether the child’s behavior or innate ability is praised.

Children who were praised for their innate ability, such as affirming that they did well because they are smart, bore unexpected results: This common method of encouragement actually caused many children to shy away from more difficult tasks. Since the value was placed on “being smart,” they skipped on more challenging tasks because they didn’t know if they were capable; so why risk it by trying something and possibly failing and losing the status of being “smart.”

Conversely, children who had their behavior praised yielded opposite results. Many in this participating group welcomed the next challenge. They had nothing to prove, or more accurately, to lose. If they failed, it wasn’t attached to their personhood — their capability. Instead of believing they weren’t smart enough, they believed with more effort they could be successful.

Here’s the thing: God says to commit our plans to Him, so bending to His will not (try) to force God to bend to ours. And we’re also challenged to live a life worthy of our calling. Both these things present us with real challenges and dangers. Yet, this group of graduates has grown up in a world where everyone from first place to last receives a trophy; expectations such as driving or having a summer job have diminished and failure is the worst possible thing, ever! In essence, we constantly affirm, “You are special and you deserve to be treated like royalty.”

Yet, at the same time, we struggle to grasp why a staggering percentage of graduates leave the church … why so few commit to their decision to follow Jesus that they made at age 7.

The root of the issue is identity. The call to follow Jesus is the exact opposite of what they’ve been taught to believe about themselves. We’ve missed the opportunity to pour into them that they have a God that created them, cares for them, adopted them and will never leave them. This message has been replaced with participation ribbons.

But, it’s not too late. God is a patient and loving God who desires all to come to Him. We need not to lose hope, but cling to it.

Here are three things your graduate can do to live the life worthy of their calling.

1. Allow your graduate to experience failure. They have been protected from the discomfort of failure and now are woefully unprepared not only for the real world, but God’s call. This summer is the perfect time for graduates to experience failure and recognize it’s not that bad. Learning how to fail is essential to trying what’s destined to fail without divine intervention, but they’ll never know all that God has for them if they are too scared to try.

2. Help your graduate commit their plans to the Lord. Set aside some intentional time with your graduate to study the Word. Stop asking them what they want to be or where they want to go to college. Challenge them to discover how God has specifically gifted them, in this given context, to live wholly for God and then seek His guidance for the best course to fulfill that role.

3. Remind your graduates of their identity in Christ. Teachers, coaches, mentors, etc., are important figures in your graduates’ life; but, if you value worldly identities: status, power, image and wealth identity, the efforts of the others’ voices will quickly be drowned out. Whether wealthy or not, or somewhere in the middle, don’t miss the opportunity to teach on identity and stewardship.

Join me in praying for your graduates, that they shake off any identities keeping them from following God’s risky and challenging plan for their life; that they allow the Spirit to remind them; that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, a child of His, able to do all things through Christ who straightens them.

C.J. Wetzler is the NextGen pastor at The Church at 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@dfb.church.

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CLERGY CORNER: Shavuos

Posted on 01 June 2017 by LeslieM

Was there Torah before Torah was given? It says in Zohar (Teruma) that G-d looked into the Torah and created the world. What does that mean? There are many stories in Torah that imply that, indeed, there was a Torah before the Torah was given:

Noach bringing in different number of kosher animals … How did he know which were kosher?

Avrohom, our forefather, fed his visiting angels matzo as part of their meal. It was Pesach. Isn’t Exodus an event that happened some 700 years later? What was he celebrating? They hadn’t rushed out of Egypt yet.

Jacob put on Tefillin. In a very curious manner, the Torah tells us a story how he created spots on branches, and the Zohar says it was his way of putting on Tefillin.

The famous Yeshiva that Jacob studied in on his way to his uncle was the Yeshiva of Shem and Ever, Noah’s sons. Were they studying the Talmud?

Yehuda went before his family to build Yeshiva in Egypt. What did they study in his Yeshiva?

King David gives up an opportunity to kill Saul when he is chasing him. He says “the primordial analogy says, “Bad comes from bad people” … “See, I’m not bad.” With that, he refers to Torah. What does that mean? The Torah does not speak as an analogy. It speaks of fact, stories, laws, history, morals, etc. — very factually. And why primordial? Primordial means the first, preceding. Kabbalistically referring to the Being that always was — G-d. The Torah is an example or analogy for G-d.

What is an analogy? When trying to explain a topic which may be out of reach to the listeners, one will clothe his thought in a tangible example. When trying to explain a complicated mathematical equation, one may try with a simpler one first to give a handle with which to use. G-d is not relatable to the human creation. The Torah is the means which he provided us to then identify with Him.

The Talmud tells us it was heard in the Heavenly abode, lucky is the one who comes here with his Torah. The Torah that we study is material. The life of the world to come is holy and spiritual. How would bringing our material world Torah to the holy higher spheres help or be meritorious and anyway?

The answer is that the Torah we study here is an analogy for higher levels. If we have our Torah with us, we have an analogy with what to be able to understand higher and deeper levels. With each level that we advance, we enter another truth. But we also enter another analogy for an even higher truth. So the ultimate truth, permeating all planes, all levels, clothes itself in different analogies throughout that journey. When we understand the Torah on the first level we’ve understood and grasped the truth there. When we come to the second level, that first one is now only an example. When we reach the third level, the second level becomes only an analogy with which to understand the third. And so on and so forth. It’s the same with the Torah.

Jacob studying, putting on Tefillin, was not about the way we have it now. It was about the truth which Tefillin relates to us. Tefillin has a message — why black, why square, why these passages, why on your arms and your head? On one level, we can say it’s to bind us, our minds and our hearts, to G-d.

On a deeper level, we can say it is referring to two modes and methods of serving G-d and bringing out each one in its unique way. The arm one is bound, an active wording in the brocho. This refers to one’s emotions, which one does not have control over. They roam around; they react. One is not fully in control of them; therefore, we bind them as an active command to continuously ensure they are bound to the service of G-d. The mind one represents our intellect. We can control where our thoughts go. We allow them to develop as we choose. That’s why the Mitzvah is to have them on your head. It’s something you can control from the outset. So even though we speak of leather, paint, ink … we really refer to emotions, intellect, service of G-d — the same with all the other examples.

The actual story of the Torah is also the means to the deeper meaning behind it. There’s a story in the Talmud, of the sage Yonatan Ben Uziel, when he would study Torah, any bird that flew over him would burn [because he studied it at the level it was revealed on Mount Sinai].

Rabbi Mayor Schapiro, founder of Lublin yeshiva, explains two types of students. The first one would analyze the story asking what are the legal implications? Would he be liable to repay the bird? Was it a direct cause? Was it indirect? What stage of indirect was it, etc? The second student would look at him and say you missed the whole point. Although those are good questions, the point is the sanctity of the student of Hillel. The point is the holiness that he has attained. The story is only hinting to a much deeper reality.

When we study Torah, we need to be cognizant of this. We need to open our eyes to this duality that is within the Torah. It’s not about face value. It’s about what’s insinuated and being taught deeper. We need the simple understanding too. But we also need to open our eyes to the deeper realities of divine wisdom within. We need to recognize that these are all different words being used to express G-dliness. These are different clothing used to tell us of the divine reality.

The Torah being given changed nothing; it just gave us better expressions to be used for simplicity’s sake. We now put on real Tefillin and affect our emotional and intellectual service of G-d. The Torah is an analogy for the primordial being. Now go and study it.

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

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CLERGY CORNER: A new day, a new thing!

Posted on 25 May 2017 by LeslieM

Our modern world has grown accustomed to newness, originality, innovation and fresh ideas. Consider that the 20th century was the apex of the Industrial Revolution, which dramatically transformed the way in which we live. The television, air conditioning, antibiotics, lasers, aircraft, computers and the Internet — things we cannot imagine living without today — were the products of the previous century. The 21st century advances have given rise to 3D printing, nanotechnology, the bitcoin, tablets, stem-cell treatments, Smartphones and social media.

The speed with which today’s generation adapts to new things has caused some to hail this as the century of advancement. No longer do people spend their entire lives trying to figure out formulas and strategies for improvement. The ink is scarcely dry on the latest press announcement when another more impressive achievement occurs. In the past, individuals would invest huge amounts of time to create. Their whole lives were spent working on inventions. [Some say] Thomas Edison tried 10,000 times before creating the light bulb; Henry Ford spent years before he created the affordable car and Ford Motor company.

Today’s pace is much quicker. Someone remarked that today “we want everything yesterday and technology makes it happen.” In an article in Virgin’s online magazine Disruptors, Alison Coleman wrote, “Unlike the great inventions of the Industrial Revolution that have stayed the course, today’s next big thing is superseded at an alarming speed by the next, next big thing.”

If the 20th century was the century of big innovation, this century is about innovation improvement. Every day brings the possibility that some ‘better thing or process’ is being introduced to society. And more people are moving away from the old toward what is new.

In Isaiah 43:18-19, the prophet declared hope to a people distressed by their captivity. It included an admonition against lingering on memories of the past — “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” A generation had come and gone, and they saw no sign of change on the horizon. They longed for release and a return to the life of the past. But he stirred their expectation by proclaiming that God was preparing to do something different, remarkable, unconventional and new!

Change, progress and advancement are part of the human experience. Some changes we embrace and others we lament, while longing for ‘better,’ simpler times. As believers, we ought to welcome newness and freshness. If improvement and convenience are the result of change, then we benefit. Even setback and loss can teach invaluable lessons. God’s word gives ample indication that our lives and experiences with Him are to lead us to progress, growth and spiritual maturity. Life does not have to be monotonous, stagnant and dull. Change that is promised and initiated by Him is always good. And every day brings the experience of new mercies. In this season of commencement, summer travels and family reunions, let’s be determined to expect and embrace something new!

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: Luke 10:25–37

Posted on 18 May 2017 by LeslieM

You shall love your neighbor as yourself

(Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31 NRSV)

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (Matthew 7:12)

Is civility enough? I ask this provocative question in light of a society where civility is lacking and, that being said, it is still not enough, not if we want to change the world for the better.

I was in conversation with a Rabbi in the community where I previously served. We talked about a Coexistence Festival in Sarasota and the topic of tolerance came up. We agreed that interfaith dialogue was an important step in the right direction because we are neighbors coexisting in the same community. Finding common ground in faith is a great way for religious leaders to lead the charge, ecumenically. By the way, “ecumenical” means “community minded.”

Yet, the Rabbi in his wisdom questioned the word “tolerance.” And he asked me a question, which I found to be enlightening: “How would you like it if you heard me say ‘Jeff, I tolerate you?’ Would you feel good inside?” He made a good point. Civility is not enough.

Yet, civility is still lacking. Drive in any grocery parking lot on Saturday. Hesitate one tenth of a second at a green light. Go shopping at the mall in December. Stand in front of somebody in a parade. We have a hard time coexisting in public and we haven’t even got to religion or politics. We literally haven’t even left the parking lot.

While we struggle for civility, a golden rule is shared, shared by many faiths. In our faith it is found in Matthew 7: 12 In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.” (NRSV) Treat people the way you want to be treated. This is a good start, but it only takes us to civility. In fact this golden rule is bronze, at best. It isn’t enough. We have gotten to tolerance but we haven’t gotten to love.

Engaged in dialogue, Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment. Aside from the first, to love God, he mentioned the second and he replied: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 and Mark 12:31 NRSV). Now we are getting somewhere. Now we are starting to move the dial of progress in society. Now THIS rule IS golden.

But who is our neighbor? This was another question that was asked of Jesus. I think the person who asked him wanted to hear the answer: “the people I like.” Liking the likeable, loving the loveable, what is remarkable about that? Then Jesus responded to his question not with a short answer but a parable, the parable of the Good Samaritan. This parable was all about liking the unlikeable and loving the unlovable, and finding value in a person from a culture and religion that was despised. Jesus’ answer was anything but comfortable. “Love my neighbor? I don’t even LIKE him.”

Upon further self examination as well as life experience, I have come to a thought. We don’t have to tackle civility before we address the need to love. In fact, if we aspire to love one another as we love ourselves, civility will fall into place.

Tolerance and coexistence are fine, but they are, at best, mediocre aspirations. I don’t want to merely coexist with my neighbor in mutual tolerance. I want to love my neighbor. Love is what moves the dial in the right direction.

Now that we have left the parking lot, we can move into the direction of a mutual existence that is grounded in love. In love, we can dialogue and build ecumenical bridges with people of different faiths. In love, we can engage in political conversations with friends with whom we disagree. In love, we can think twice before we honk at the person who pulls out of his or her parking spot without looking, or cuts us off, or hesitates for more than a second at a green light. Let all that you do be done in love.” (I Corinthians 16:14)

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, call 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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