25 January 2015

Every Israelite is a "Jew"

5 Shevat 5775
Shavua Tov

Why are the Jewish people called "Yehudim"? 
(Shared from Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi's facebook page)

When our matriarch Leah gave birth to her fourth child she called him "Yehuda" to give thanks to the Almighty that He had given her more than her share. Jacob had 4 wives and there was a prophecy that he would have 12 sons - so Leah gave thanks that the Almighty gave her more than her share (4 sons and not just 3 sons). Likewise, the Jewish people are grateful to the Almighty for giving us abundant blessings.
One has a choice in life to choose his attitude. How we view events depends on our past experiences and how we have trained ourselves to view what happens to us. One can see the glass half full or half empty - and that does not have to depend on whether one is pouring the water or drinking the water! Some people might even look at the glass as being too big for the amount of water...
The Torah strongly emphasizes the character trait of gratitude both in the examples of our forefathers and in the commandments set forth for us to fulfill. When the Jews crossed the Yam Suf (the Sea of Reeds often mistakenly called the Red Sea) the first thing they did was to sing a song of thanks to the Almighty for saving them from the Egyptians. Farmers are instructed to bring up to Jerusalem the first fruits that their trees produce (when they would spot the buds they would tie a ribbon around the branch to remember which one). (For more examples, please ... read the Torah!)
The Sages of the Talmud set forth a practical daily program - our own personal training program - to develop the character trait of gratitude. The first words we utter in the morning are the "Modeh Ani":
"I give thanks before You, ever living and eternal King, that You have returned to me my soul in compassion. Great is Your faithfulness."
Three times a day - the morning, the afternoon, the night - a Jew stops his activity to focus on the Almighty to give thanks and to make requests. Three times a day we train on bringing a spiritual element into how to view life.
In the morning prayer service we start out with a series of blessings thanking the Almighty for: our eyes, that we can see, that we can move our bodies, that we have clothes and shoes, that we have another opportunity to do the Almighty's will and fulfil His commandments to perfect ourselves and His world.
In Pirkei Avos (Ethics of the Fathers) 4:1, Ben Zoma asks, "Who is the rich person?" and he answers, "One who is happy in his portion." If you want to be happy in your portion then you have to focus on your portion. Make a list of all that you have to be grateful for: that you can breathe, that you can see, that you can hear, that you can think. Constantly review and add to the list. And thank the Almighty for what you have.
I have a friend who has a serious life threatening medical situation. Any moment he could die (then again, any moment ANY of us could die!). When I ask him, "How are you?" He always replies with a happy laugh, "It's a great day to be alive! Every day you look at the grass from the top down is a great day!"
Life is filled with difficulties, but it is also filled with joys. If we focus that each second is good then we have minutes of good seconds. And if we focus on each minute being good we have hours of good minutes. And if we focus on the good hours we have days of good hours - and eventually we have a great life!
When I visited the Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. I was most moved by an audio testimony. A man spoke: "One day I saw my friend Chaim praying. It was too late for the morning service and too early for the afternoon service. I asked him, 'Chaim, what are you praying?' He responded, 'I am thanking God.' I asked him, 'Chaim, look around you, you're in a death camp, people are being tortured and dying. What do you possibly have to thank God for?' Replies Chaim, 'I am thanking God I am one of us and not one of them.' "
It's your choice and in your power how you view life.