Jewish Thought

Real Smugglers, Fake Funeral: A Chassidic Tale for Yom Kippur

Fake Funeral
Chassidic stories are known to be healthy for the soul. Let me share one with you that I heard from the Melitzer Rebbe of Ashdod, may Hashem bless him:

Back in 18th Century Eastern Europe, smuggling was a popular but very risky way for a Jew to make a living. The Jews were only allowed to live in a certain area known as the "Pale of Settlement", were not allowed to own land and were limited to certain trades. The fact that the Czar levied tremendous taxes on liquor and tobacco made the smuggling business from Poland to Russia all the more lucrative. Yet, woe to the person who got caught, for the Russian customs police who manned the international border with Poland were more than motivated to get their burly hands on violators, especially when the outlaw was a Jew...

Nachumk'e sat down at his old wooden table in his dilapidated cabin in the Polish shtetyl (village) of Kratzenshtok, not far from the Russian border. His brother-in-law, who lived on the Russian side, told him that he could triple his money by selling Polish shnops (booze) to the Russians. The only tiny "technical detail" was how to get it across the border. Nachumk'e thought of his four daughters, the oldest of whom was rapidly reaching marital age. "Where do I get the money to marry off one, much less four?", thought Nachumk'e, on the verge of despair.

Suddenly, a light bulb flashed in his head. What a great idea...

Nachumk'e summoned his trusted best friend Berch'e and told him the idea. Berch'e was enthused beyond words, for he too was suffering from major income problems with no relief in sight. They bought the cheapest coffin they could find, a plain pine box, and filled it to the brim with with bottles of the best Polish whiskey, which would bring a handsome sum on the Russian side of the border. And, to muffle the sound of the battles rattling, they packed as much choice Polish tobacco as they could. The coffin, once its contents were sold to the ready and waiting black marketeers on the Russian side, would bring a handsome sum.

Nachumk'e and Berch'e hired "extras" to serve as mourners and pallbearers. Although these extras didn't know exactly what their employers were doing, they didn't care. For an easy day's work, a few hours of crossing the border and coming home, they were paid three times more than what they normally made by chopping wood and carrying pales of water from the river to the village.

The "procession" arrived at the Russian border. A burly customs police sergeant, a Russian with knee-high spit-shined boots and a handlebar mustache, approached the Jews. "Open the coffin," he barked. Nachumk'e gulped but bounced back quickly and said, "Sir, every nation honors its dead. Shall we violate the dignity of the deceased by disturbing its rest and opening the coffin?" The Russian waved the procession through.

On the Russian side, the smugglers breathed a deep sigh of relief. Yet, with the joy of the stack of rubles that was soon in their hands, they forgot all about the moment of peril, when they could feel their pulse in their throats.

After the first taste of smuggling success, Nachumk'e and Berch'e started performing weekly funerals. But, the more that they and the Russian border guards grew accustomed to one another, the less cautious the Jewish smugglers became.

One day, a high ranking customs officer from St. Petersburg decided to visit several border stations on the Polish border. He ascended the lookout tower and observed from above all the happenings below. Just then, Nachumk'e and company arrived at the border with a casket and their usual entourage. Just as the sergeant was about to wave them through, the officer descended like an eagle on the funeral entourage. "Open the casket," he barked, "this very second."

Nachumk'e, a little too over-confidant by this time, protested, "Sir, what about the dignity of the dead?"

The Russian drew his saber from its sheath and growled, "Jew, unless you wish to join the ranks of the deceased, open the coffin right now!"

Opening the coffin, Berch'e sobbed deep heart-rending sobs. Nachumk'e wailed. The other Jews joined in the crying...

The bottles of golden Polish whiskey glittered in the sunlight. Packets and packets of tobacco released their pungent scent.

The Russian officer, from his perch in the lookout tower, had never seen such a casual funeral in his life. No one was crying and a few were even smiling. That's what made them so suspicious. The officer said to Nachumk'e and Berch'e, "Aha, now you are crying. You will continue to do so in a Siberian prison. Idiots, if you would have cried a few minutes ago, then you could have been laughing now. But now, it's too late!

* * *

The above parable is a well-known Chassidic-Yiddish folk tale that we tell before Yom Kippur. During the year, people suffer all types of pain and tribulations. But if they would have cried on Yom Kippur, sincerely asking the Almighty for to forgive them for all their misdeeds, then they'd be laughing now. The Gemara teaches that there are no tribulations without prior transgressions, but teshuva (penitence) atones for transgressions and therefore wards off suffering.

Have an easy fast and a most meaningful Yom Kippur! G-d willing, we'll be back right after Yom Kippur. Every blessing for the best year of your life, LB


Rosh Hashanah and Political Correctness

Zachariah's Tomb
Flattery in Judaism doesn't mean that you tell your wife that she's gorgeous when she really is rather plain looking. Flattery in Judaism means telling a wicked person what a nice guy he is. In that vein, flattery is a serious lie. The Gemara in tractate Sota therefore says that flatterers are one of the four groups that cannot receive the Divine Presence. In contemporary jargon, the term for such flattery is "political correctness." Insofar as political correctness fits the Halachic definition of flattery, we can conclude that the politically correct are shunned from the Divine Presence. That means that they forfeit inestimable spiritual abundance and blessings as well as round-the-clock Divine protection.

The above statement sounds stiff, doesn't it? Let's see an example of the devastation that political correctness causes us (For the whole story, see Kings II 12:17-18; Chronicles II 24:15-22; Gittin 57b):

Zachariah the Prophet lived during the time of the First Temple around 9th Century BCE. King Joash reigned in Judea at the time. King Joash, who was raised by his uncle, Zachariah's father the righteous High Priest Jehoyada, at first ruled in accordance with Torah – in truth, justice and in emuna. But, when Jehoyada died at the ripe old age of 130, Joash came under the influence of self-seeking nobles, idolatrous priests and false prophets who encouraged the king to cast aside the ways of Torah for luxury and licentiousness.

Seeing the terrible pit of immorality and idolatry that Joash had fallen into, Hashem sent Jehoyada's son the holy prophet Zachariah to chastise him and influence him to mend his ways. In the Holy Temple, Zachariah admonished both the populace and the ruling mafia for their evil ways and heinous breach of Hashem's Torah. This was in complete contrast to the false prophets who controlled public opinion at the time (much like today's media), telling the populace that everything was fine. It wasn't, as the destruction of the Holy Temple proved several years later.

At any rate, Zechariah's message didn't get many "likes" in the King's Palace, among the bureaucracy or among the general populace. At the nod of King Joash, Zechariah's first cousin who owed his life to Zechariah's father, Zechariah was stoned to death in the premises of the Holy Temple on Yom Kippur that turned out on a Shabbat that year! This was the most despicable deed imaginable, performed on the holiest imaginable day in the holiest imaginable place on earth.

When the Babylonian (ancient Iraq) Army seized Jerusalem and captured the Temple Mount, General Nebuzadran entered the inner chamber of the Holy Temple where the altar is and found the blood of Zachariah boiling on the floor. He asked the priests what that blood was and they told him that it was the remnant of the previous day's sacrifices. He didn't believe them, so he slaughtered a goat to see if the two types of blood were comparable. They were not. Nebuzadran then threatened the priests that he'd rake their flesh if they didn't tell him the truth…

The priests answered, "What can we tell you, sir! There was a prophet among us who rebuked us about matters pertaining to Heavenly service. We ganged up against him and killed him. Alas, for years now his blood has not come to rest."

The General said, "I shall be the one to appease his blood." Nebuzadran then butchered all the members of the Great Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) and the Lesser Sanhedrin, but Zechariah's blood still boiled. He then slaughtered thousands of young priests and young people from priestly families. The blood still boiled. The blood flowed from the Temple Mount down the Kidron Valley like a river. Nebuzadran then spoke to Zachariah's blood and said, "Zachariah, Zachariah! I have destroyed the best of them. Do you want me to kill them all?" The blood immediately came to rest.

When Nebuzadran saw this awesome miracle, he said to himself, "If they, who only killed a single person, were punished in such a way, what will become of me?"

On the spot he fled, giving up his entire lofty station in life and all his property, and became a righteous convert.

***

Don't think that the above episode was a lone one. When King Zedekiah and his false prophets turned to an alliance with Egypt in order to defeat the Babylonians, Jeremiah warned that instead, they should turn to Hashem. He warned that the Temple would be imminently destroyed if the people and the government continue in their evil ways. Politically, this wasn't at all popular. Jeremiah was beaten and thrown into a dungeon (see Jeremiah, ch. 37-38). He paid the price of his political incorrectness, but King Zedekiah and the populace paid a bigger price: Zedekiah's eyes were gouged out (ibid., 52) and the Holy Temple was completely destroyed.

***

Let's do some soul-searching this Rosh Hashanah: has anything changed? Are we any different than Zachariah's generation? Are we too afraid to speak up for truth and justice? Does anyone dare today to be politically incorrect and blow the whistle on public-sanctioned exhibitions of things that the Torah calls abominations? Does anyone dare lift a voice against politically-powerful people who are proven serial child molesters? Does anyone protest the unethical business practices that go on in the workplace?

Iran, Hezbolla and Hamas don't scare me in the least. The lie of political correctness should terrify all of us, for its outcome has been devastating throughout our history. As a New Year's resolution for 5780, we should commit to seek the truth, heed our true spiritual leaders and come back to Hashem. I pray that Hashem will always give us the boldness to buck social convention and immorality and the courage to cling to the truth of His Torah, no matter what the odds or how politically incorrect it may be. My heartfelt blessings for a signature in the Book of Life for a wonderful New Year, 5780, amen!


Beware of Judgment Traps

Judgment Trap
Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (see Likutei Moharan I:113) that before an accused person is finally sentenced in the Heavenly Court, the judges ask that person if he/she agrees to the verdict.

Who would be so daft to agree to a guilty verdict against themselves? You're right - no one. Ah, but here's the trick: If the Heavenly Court would ask us about ourselves, surely we'd have a whole string of "justified" reasons and excuses to get ourselves off the hot-seat. But, the Heavenly Court is crafty; we are asked to judge another person. Our judgment of a fellow human is in effect our judgment against ourselves, what's known as "the judgment trap". Chapter 12 of the Book of Samuel II shows us a prime example:

Nathan the Prophet asked King David for his opinion in judging a difficult matter: "There were two men,” said Nathan, “one rich and one poor. The rich man had very thousands of sheep and cattle, but the poor man had nothing but one small ewe which he cared for in his own house alongside his children. The ewe ate from his bread, drank from his cup, and slept in his midst, just like a daughter.”

Nathan continued. “Then a guest came to the rich man. The wealthy host was too stingy to slaughter any of his own sheep to serve to the guest, and instead took the poor man’s ewe and prepared it for the guest.”

King David was outraged by the haughtiness and hardheartedness of the rich man, and declared, “As G‑d lives, the man who did this deserves to die! He shall pay fourfold for the ewe, since he did this and had no pity!”

By issuing a verdict in the case set before him, David had unwittingly set the rules for his own prosecution and conviction!

Nathan the Prophet cried out, “You are the man! David recognized the scope of his sin, admitted his guilt and repented for his actions. Afterwards, Nathan the Prophet conveyed G‑d’s message that He had accepted David's atonement.

We have to be extremely careful to avoid falling into "judgment traps" such as the one described in the above example. Before we voice an opinion, we should stop and think that we may be sentencing ourselves for a very similar misdeed. In order to avoid inadvertently sentencing ourselves with stiff verdicts, we should be lenient and understanding with others.

These last days before Rosh Hashanna are notorious for being weeks of "judgment traps". The best policy is to speak minimally now, limiting our speech to prayer, Torah learning, and nurturing healthy family relations. Limit speech to the barest necessity for whatever business, trade, or profession that we need to make a living. When we do speak, we should exercise extreme caution to avoid judging others. If we do judge others, we should go out of our way to give them the benefit of the doubt, be lenient, tolerant, and understanding. This is especially critical in our judgments of our spouses, children, and parents.

Nobody escapes judgment traps, so don't fall into them in the first place. Hopefully, having become aware of judgment traps, we won't sign harsh verdicts against ourselves or against our fellow human never ever again. May G-d bless all of us for an inscription in the Book of a long and healthy Life for a wonderfful New Year 5780, amen.


Cramming Syndrome

Cramming Syndrome 20.9.19
Karen and Richie were both physical education majors at the University of Maryland's College Park campus. Both were superb all-around athletes, each with a specialty: a remarkable gymnast, Karen was looking forward to a career as a fitness trainer and gymnastics coach while Richie aspired to be a top-level strength-and-conditioning expert and swimming coach. They had much in common and planned to get married after graduating. Meanwhile, you'd always find them together, whether in the same classes or mostly enjoying outdoor and athletic activities. They played tennis and golf together and on weekends they'd go on long bike rides along the old Potomac River towpath near Seneca, Maryland or drive down for sun & surf at Ocean City.

Just as Karen and Richie loved the same things, they hated the same things. Their pet hate was Organic Chemistry 202. This was a required course for phys-ed majors just as it was required for pre-med students. There was no way around it. Karen and Richie could easily breeze through most of their studies, but there was no way to breeze through Organic Chem – you had to sit yourself down at a desk and learn, then learn, then learn some more. Were it not for this nemesis, their university days would have been play-school paradise, but alas, there's always a bump in the road...

Having cut most of their classes, the happy-go-lucky boyfriend and girlfriend decided that the bald-headed nerd who taught Organic Chem couldn't teach them anything that wasn't in the textbook; all the formulas and types of compounds seemed clear, no different than what the instructor was writing on the blackboard, so why sit in class on a balmy Maryland springtime afternoon, when you could be sunbathing or water skiing on the Chesapeake Bay?

The clock never stopped ticking; minutes, hours, days and weeks transpired until the ax suddenly hovered above their necks – final exams. They had only three days to prepare for Judgment Day in Organic Chem. That's when the talk about cramming started...

Karen and Richie didn't really open a book until 48 hours before the final exam. A 452-page text book in Organic Chemistry is quite different from a 452-page novel. It's not something  a person can sail through. Sometime, one can struggle with a single solitary page for a week. So, how do you cram 452 pages of ions, anions, carbonates, oxides, alcohols, phenols and carbides in three days?

First, you pull all-nighters.

You would think that phys-ed majors and fitness freaks don't do things that are detrimental to their health. Not so, if they're hit with the cramming syndrome…

How does one go for two days without sleeping? Phys-ed majors or not, you destroy your body and your brain with over-the-counter No-Doze pills and drink Turkish coffee and RedBull as if they were water. In short, you become a zombie with big black circles under your eyes and heart palpitations at the ripe old age of 22.

After the exam, the campus couple crashed, and it took a good two weeks for them to recover from the trauma they brought upon their bodies. Is it worth it? OK, even if they did pass the test (barely), they didn't retain a single thing of what they crammed. Consequently, the cramming added nothing to their education or personal development, except for enabling them to get their degrees. And, that's the best-case scenario...

***

Don't think that the cramming syndrome is only characteristic of university students like Karen and Richie.  Many folks suffer from it too. All year long, they do what they like, forgetting that they too have a day of “final exams”, when the Heavenly Court examines a person's every deed, spoken word and thought for the entire year. This final exam is the annual judgment day, known as Rosh Hashana. This final exam is no joke – it's life and death, as we say in the Rosh Hashana liturgy, “Who by fire, who by flood, who by the sword, and who by a wild animal...”

How do we prepare for such a final exam? Who can possibly account for what they thought, said or did nine, six or even three months ago?

Fortunately, The Almighty gave us a week of "Selichot", when we ask forgiveness and move into repentance mode. Beginning this coming Saturday night, we simply admit to Hashem what we did wrong, ask His forgiveness and pray for His help in improving ourselves. Penitenec, or teshuva as we say in Hebrew, is the "spiritual shower" required to maintain one's spiritual hygiene, where people should assess themselves and rectify what needs correcting every single day.

Obviously, the best course of action is to devote an hour a day to personal prayer, when we examine everything we did in the last 24 hours and do our necessary teshuva. That way, there's no need for cramming the year's 365 days – which we can't possibly remember everything that requires correcting – into the few remaining days before Rosh Hashana. Yet, most people stall until the last week or the last three days. That's tough…

It's tough to cram in a week. Yet, our compassionate and merciful Father in Heaven knows that we're human, so He gives us a one-week cramming period every year before Rosh Hashana – it's called the Selichot Week. Let's get to work! Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat and a very happy New Year 5780, LB


The Lesson of Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov

REBY 4.9.19Above: Rabbi Lazer praying in the hill overlooking the tomb above Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov's burial cave 

A great health-enhancing aid is to pray by the gravesites of our holy sages, and here in the Land of Israel, there are plenty of them. Yesterday on my way up north to Tzfat, I stopped by the holy burial cave of the Tannaic sage Rebbe Elezer ben Yaacov, one of Rebbe Akiva's seven foremost students, who rose to greatness after Rebbe Akiva's first 24,000 students died in a plague for not properly respecting each other. Many people have asked me to pray for their health, so I was glad to fulfill their request at this holy site.

Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov was extremely humble. He didn't say much, but almost everyone of his utterances has been encoded in religious law.  Let's hear more about him:

A Message from the Holy Gravesite of Rebbe Eliezer ben Yaacov from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Just Another Piece of Meat?

Bull 30.8
This week's Torah portion, Re'eh, teaches us which animals are befitting to eat and which are not. Wouldn't you be insulted of someone compared you to a piece of meat? On the surface, it seems that King Solomon is doing just that. Could that be?

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, tells us that man is no better than any other animal (see Ecclesiastes 3:19). Rashi explains that both end up dying and both have bodies which will eventually decompose in the soul.

Is that all we are, disposable recycled sacks of fertilizer? It sounds like pretty stiff language that King Solomon and Rashi are using.

Before we get upset, let's take a closer look. King Solomon and Rashi are referring to a flesh-and-blood body; in that respect, we are truly just another mammal. But the Midrash tells us that the mammal is only half of us - the material half. We have another side that's known as the neshama - the soul - our spiritual half.

The more are lives focus on the material, the more we resemble an animal. The more are lives focus on the spiritual, the more we resemble an archangel.

Let's not give animals a bad rap: they eat, drink, and procreate. They also live positive, productive lives, providing society with meat, milk, wool, leather, and fur. Many types of animals serve as means of labor, transportation, and recreation. Dogs fulfill important functions, such as aiding blind people, serving in police and army units, and participating in rescue missions.

A human who simply eats, drinks, and procreates, despite the fact that he or she has a productive job and utilizes leisure time for sports or other positive recreational activities, is still no better than a horse. Horses eat, drink, and procreate, do productive tasks on farms and cattle ranches, and serve as a source of recreational enjoyment to their owners. So, is a person superior to a horse?

A person void of spiritual ambition – a thirst for truth and a yearning for self-realization – is no better than a horse. A horse, like a human, has a basic animal soul. The Divine spirit and soul, which the Creator instills in a human, is the sole point of human superiority over the animal.

When humans utilize their divine spirit and soul to rise above base inclinations, to seek The Almighty, and to behave in a godly fashion, they begin to fulfill their real purpose in life. But, when people misuse or neglect their divine spirit and soul, they are inferior to an animal.

An unblemished soul – one who refrains from transgressing and does The Creator's will on a daily basis – possesses a Divine aura which is reflected by the eyes and the forehead, and casts fear on all of creation, even on man-eating animals.

God blessed Noah after the flood and said (Genesis 9:2), "I have instilled the fear of you in the animals on land, in the birds in the sky, in the creatures on earth, and in the fish in the sea." When people sin, or when they do nothing to develop their spiritual self, their divine soul tarnishes. A tarnished soul lacks the power to generate the holy aura of divine light. Animals and other creatures have no fear of a human devoid of the Divine aura.

The Divine soul is a part of God within us, the spiritual platform that elevates a human above the level of an animal. If the soul is misused or uncultivated, then the human loses his spiritual advantage over the animal.

Imagine that a custodian of a hospital enters the operating room, and takes one of the brain surgeon's fine sterile scalpels for peeling an apple. If caught in the act, such a custodian would surely lose his job. Using an expensive precision instrument for such a mundane task is not only a terrible waste – it's a severe degradation.

By the same token, reducing the soul from its lofty spiritual level to the grade of a mere battery cell that triggers basic emotions and bodily functions is a bitter insult. The degraded soul cries out bitterly before God, "I can't live within a human animal." In turn, the person with the abused soul soon experiences some form of abuse – derision, insult, or embarrassment.

It's time we took stock in ourselves and begin pursuing our true destiny. Anyone with a human soul seeking to get close to G-d is not just another piece of meat.


Hannah's Prayer

This is a vital message for everyone, but especially for women, telling about their two prodigious powers - faith and prayer. Despite all the righteous men in our history, we learn the proper and best way to pray from a woman - Hannah - the mother of the Prophet Samuel. This is encouraging and enlightening, especially during the Nine Days. Enjoy it and have a wonderful new month of Av and a great Shabbat and weekend...

Hannah's Prayer from lazerbrody on Vimeo.


Much More than Joy

2More than Joy 14.6

I wrote today's post as an encouragement for myself...

In case you don’t yet know any Hebrew, I want to teach you a vital Hebrew word – Simcha. It's much more than joy, more than happiness, more than gladness. It's the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification, no matter what's going on in your life at the moment or how difficult things are. Simcha - once again, the deep inner feeling of contentment and gratification - is the most dependable indication of spiritual and emotional health. After emuna, simcha is the next word to add to your vocabulary. What's more, emuna and simcha are the dream couple. Just saying both words already makes us feel happier.

The Rambam teaches us that a person can influence him or herself by his or her own actions. If we force ourselves to smile, the first time or two will be mechanical, but the third smile will be for real. So wherever you are right now – in the office, on the subway, in the kitchen, in your living room or even in a hospital bed, let's continue the day with a smile; yes – right now, cherished friend, put a smile on your face. When you're happy, your brain functions much better, and you'll more readily internalize what we’re talking about. So look in the mirror, show us your teeth, and pretend you're doing a toothpaste commercial.

Happiness is a statement that we like the way Hashem runs the world. Happiness is therefore the  key to success, for when a person is happy, Hashem is with him in measure-for-measure fashion.

Sadness causes worry and anxiety. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that all sickness and disease stem from lack of happiness. Ask any doctor: when a person is happy, not only the heart but the whole body functions at its optimum. In fact, the Rambam, history's greatest doctor, teaches that sickness come from worry and anxiety.

The holy Zohar teaches that sadness is the worst transgression in the Torah. That sounds a little strange, so we really should ask why. How can sadness be worse than eating on Yom Kippur or violating the Shabbat?

Suppose a person accidentally turns on the lights on Shabbat. He or she is disappointed in themselves, but they ask forgiveness the next time they pray and finished. With teshuva, the blemish of a misdeed is totally rectified. The sin has been cleansed and wiped away.

But, sadness is heresy – an expression of dissatisfaction with Hashem's way of running the world, which is none other than denial of Hashem. For that reason, the Zohar says that sadness is the worse type of idol worship. Just as Rebbe Nachman says it’s a mitzvah to be happy, conversely it's a terrible sin to be sad. Sad people neither pray nor do teshuva, so with each day of sadness, they drift further and further away from Hashem.

The basis of genuine joy is contentment with your own lot in life, with whatever Hashem gives you. How do you achieve this? The one-word answer is Emuna

Many people write me and tell me that they have emuna, yet they're still not happy. By emuna, they mean that they have a general belief in Hashem; the type of emuna one needs to attain happiness isn't the living-room discussion emuna, but the emuna in your heart that everything Hashem does is for the very best. With that level of emuna, worry falls; when worry falls, a person's tension and anxiety levels fall way down and the heart becomes free to be happy.

To attain genuine joy, a basic belief in Hashem isn't enough. We must believe that everything Hashem does is for the best. Until a person believes that everything is for the best, he doesn't have emuna.

How do we arrive at the level that we believe that everything is for the best? We speak to Hashem and ask him to help us observe and understand to the limits of our God-given capabilities how everything in our lives is for the very best. And where understanding kicks out, emuna kicks in.

Have a more than a joyous Shabbat! Warmest regards and blessings, LB


Hospice Nurse

Hospice Nurse 12.6
I had every intention to prepare an emuna body-soul health vid for today, but Hashem had other plans for me. I had to get back on a plane and return to the USA to perform a mitzva that no one else can do for me - honoring my 93-year-old Mama, may Hashem bless her.

I have been blessed with awesome sibs, each one a star in his/her own right. While I've been in Israel, they've been caretaking for Mama, who has already been fighting a long and tough bout with congestive heart failure. After careful consideration and consultation - while taking into account both Mama's wishes and Jewish Law and Bioethics - we've taken Mama off the remedy-seeking agenda and put her on a comfort-oriented agenda. In other words, she's in hospice care, usually administered when the attending physicians feel that the patient is approaching the final stage of life on this physical earth.

It's now my turn to care for Mama. Temporarily, the rabbi health & fitness coach is now a hospice nurse. The above image is real, showing the type of meds I must pre-prepare daily so that Mama can have them in times of crisis and/or as regularly scheduled. The responsibility is prodigious, but it's a gift from Hashem to enable me to give back a tiny bit of love and gratitude to a young lass who escaped the Holocaust to become a mother that raised her children with unbelievable dedication despite indescribable hardship. Therefore, everything in my life has come to a temporary halt with my entire focus directed at taking care of Mama during each precious extended moment of life that Hashem grants her on this earth.

Our sages tell us that properly honoring our parents is the most challenging mitzva in the Torah; they knew exactly what they were talking about.

G-d willing, I hope to write a post about hospice care and Jewish bioethics in the near future. In the meanwhile, thanks to the support and cooperation of my cherished wife, may Hashem bless her always, I'll be here in the USA until the end of the month trying my best to keep a smile on my Mama's face just as much as my wonderful three brothers and one sister have been doing. May Hashem our parents wonderful health and help us all to properly honor them always, amen.