Rabbi Rael Blumenthal


#Bereishis #תשפב

I have a confession to make. I am not the Talmid Chacham that I once dreamed of becoming. I have not (nearly) mastered the texts that I wanted to master. I have not completed the seforim I planned on completing. And from speaking to many chaverim, rabbonim, and chevra in the community, I don't believe I am alone in this guilt. If we're honest with ourselves, it doesn't feel so good – and this week in particular, it feels worse.

During the Yamim Noraim, we spend hours engaged in lofty pursuits – davening, learning, spending time with family and friends. Our lives were filled with mitzvos, while the pressures of the working world could be (somewhat) ignored.

But now the Chagim come to a close. The needs of our careers and occupations come back stronger than ever, and with it there is a sadness. For many of us who spent time in Yeshivos and seminaries, we once again begin to carry with us the weight of not having learned as much as we once dreamed.

At a some point in the past few years, the Seforim shelf that was once a point of pride (look at all my seforim!) becomes a point of shame (look at how much I haven't learned...) As the dust collects, there is an ironic and painful knowledge that some shelves have never needed to be cleaned for Pesach. And it seems likely that the big dreams of becoming talmidei chachamim worthy of the title seems further and further away. Time constraints and obligations increase as our self confidence wanes.

Of course, we all know that none of these feelings should hold us back from trying harder. None of this should convince us not to attend a shiur, set up a new chavrusa, or open a new Sefer. But the knowledge that we are missing not days or weeks, but perhaps years or more from our once-held goals, is deeply demotivating.

Truthfully, this is the challenge of Shabbos Bereishis – it is the oldest and most insidious Yetzer Hara.


#Bereishis #תשפא

I am not ambivalent. I don't think anyone is, or can be. My orientation to this intense political drama is not resultant from a lack of thought or opinions. I, just like you, have opinions. Some of them are even strong opinions.

Why don't I care who you vote for? It's an Avoda. Every day I am attempting to live a dialectic – a bifurcation of sorts. Of course, there is the famous and well explored dialectic of separating between a person and their thoughts/actions. This distinction was crystallized by Bruria, the wife of Rebbe Meir who admonished her husband that Hashem does not want to see the demise of sinners, but of sins. We could all stand to do some more work in this arena.

But even invoking the “sin vs sinner” conversation is a branding of sorts that I'd like to avoid. It's a “looking down from my pedestal” approach. And in the heat of our current political brouhaha, I think you'd agree that it is unhelpful.

Instead, the dialectic I wish to explore is a little more nuanced, and less understood. It's the point of conflict between Torah and Tefillah.