Tuesday, 24 April 2018


I live in Toronto, less than 2 miles away from where yesterday's horrific tragedy occurred. Toronto is generally a most tranquil city, noted for its many cultural faces. An event of this nature disrupts our reliances.

What is perhaps most unsettling is the nature of this lone attacker. He is not one who seems to represent a group. He has his own definition of right-and-wrong which led him to act in this most evil manner with the perception that he was justified. And all he needed to do was rent a van.

What leads a person to think so much of himself that he can decide to act in such a cruel manner, savagely killing, torturing and maiming innocent people, because he so decides that it is the thing to do? And this is not just happening in Toronto. When did we stop learning to question and examine ourselves? This is the very call of mussar and it is the obligation of us all.

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Mussar: Be a Mensch

From RRW
Mensch - Wikipedia

My brother's Yohrzeit is 6 Iyyar

One of the charges he gave me that remains with me to this day is

"Just Be A Mensch"

I've always aimed to live up to that advice
Tehei Nishmato Tzarur Bitzror Hachaim.....

Thursday, 19 April 2018

Follow-up on my earlier blog postL Did we forget Yom Ha'atzmaut?

As we approach the end of Yom Ha'atzmaut, I wanted to comment on my previous post from 2010 (reproduce below) on the nature of our celebration of this day. In that post, what I was effectively raising was the question of whether our celebration of this day was like every other nation's celebration of their Independence Day -- and that we became a nation like all other nations -- or whether we were celebrating the creation of a distinctively Jewish State.

While many issues still stand before us, I am happy to say that I do believe we are moving in the latter direction -- but there is still more to do. So I wanted to present my thoughts from this old blog post as I further believe that the question presented therein must still be before us as we move foreward.


Did we forget Yom Ha'atzmaut?

 originally posted April 22. 2010

Some of our readers may have noticed that there was no Nishmablog post for Yom Ha'atzmaut. Could it mean that we were possibly making a statement through this lack of even a post. The fact is I was wondering myself why I didn't post something, at least to mark the day (which I do, in some way, personally mark).

What occurred to me was my own ambivalence about the day which, perhaps, indicated something to me about our celebration of Jewish holidays. What are we really marking when we celebrate, for example, Pesach? The simple answer may be freedom but I think that that is only part of the answer. The full answer includes a recognition of God's role in our Exodus and the expression of shevach v'hoda'ah in appreciation. The focus of Pesach is not on freedom itself but our appreciation to God for this freedom.

This led me to recognize that with Yom Ha'atzmaut we have the same issue. Are we celebrating the establishment of an independent Jewish country or are we celebrating God Who gave us this country? The two poles, of course, represent ends of a spectrum with different individuals experiencing different feelings -- but what is most dominant, that feeling of celebrating independence (a feeling that can be shared with secular individuals as well), or that feeling of shevach v'hoda'ah to HaKodesh Baruch Hu for giving us this independent nation?

I once heard a rav explain that it took 100 years before Chanukah was clearly accepted as a holiday to be celebrated into the generations. This may have been the issue. Clearly all felt positive in throwing off the Greek oppressors but was the dominant emotion a secular celebration of independence or a religious recognition of the Divine? It may have took years to answer that question or to bring the emotion that substantiates an eternal value in the day to come forth.

The same may be true for Yom Ha'atzmaut. Clearly it is a day that I mark and celebrate. I benefit from the reality of a State of Israel. But why did I not blog about? This celebration, it would seem, for me still has not moved into my realm of Torah thoughts. While I thank God for the State, I have not crossed the line where the celebration of God's role has precedence in my feelings over the feelings of independence itself. It has, as such, not yet become an eternal value within my structure of Torah. Thus it was possible for me to let the day past without a blog post.

Is this something that I should work on for next year or is this simply a reflection of the present reality of the day? That is something for me to think about but it may be something that demands further contemplation by all of us.

Rabbi Ben Hecht