Rabbi Hirshel Jaffe - Inspirational & Motivational Speaker


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Overcoming Loneliness

A Rabbi said: “The way we usually approach loneliness is mostly by avoiding it, because we have all seen lonely people sitting next to other lonely people on lonely park benches, and they are the people we would least like to be. So we shy away from the subject altogether because in our idealized, packaged version of healthy adjustment, there is no room for loneliness, not even a little bit.”

The author Thomas Wolfe wrote in an essay entitled “Loneliness,” “that far from being a rare and curious phenomenon,” loneliness “is the central and inevitable fact of human existence.”

How sad that in the digital age the more we are connected to everything – the more we feel detached, isolated and separated. And we stare at our phones and hide behind the digital screens.
How often to I pass a bunch of teenagers sitting on the steps and not looking at each other or talking to their friends right there next to them.

“How is this a life?” asks a 30-something blogger.

It’s not a life, actually. We cannot spend our days hunched over a screen forging a sense of human interaction. This is not what we are made for. I can guarantee all your best memories live within the moments with others.

Recently, a congregant of mine suffered a loss and only found out about their bereavement when I happened to go on Facebook. I wrote to my Temple families and sermonized pleading with them to at least call me and the people close to them to hear our voices and let us go in person to comfort them.

The blogger Jamie Varon asked perceptively, “When you look back on your life will you be happy about how much you binged on Netflix? Will you be happy about the graveyard of plans you let fall by the wayside? Will you be happy when you are surrounded by no one because we’ve all pushed each other away?”

That’s an excerpt from her essay entitled, “This is the New Loneliness.” A New Loneliness has seized a new generation.

And maybe, when we ditch our phones and stop surfing and posting and liking, we should ask ourselves: why?
My wedding couple tell me that they met the old fashioned way because online dating – searching for suitable people all looking anonymously – only intensified their loneliness.

Now loneliness is viewed as a public health issue because researchers have found mounting evidence linking loneliness to physical illness and to cognitive decline.

A Rabbi asks us to examine ourselves honestly. How much loneliness have I brought upon myself through narcissism and a lack of self-awareness? Why not set aside your loneliness by doing something for someone else.

Anyone who serves at a homeless shelter, or tutors disadvantaged kids, or volunteers at a hospital, knows this.

From time to time, we are all lost and lonely in this impersonal world. So make real friends and reach out to the strangers and the estranged. And find your path in life together.

Coronavirus-A Time of Opportunity

A colleague has offered comforting words. We all need some healing of our souls. The fear and uncertainty caused by the Coronavirus has stressed and strained us all. Let us take the opportunity to find the peace we need to restore some sense of balance.

Embrace this day as a respite from tension and worry, an island of calm, and a time of renewal. Take some time to be outdoors away from crowds and commune with nature. Draw closer to the members of your household and connect remotely with family and friends. As the beautiful poem below suggests, let’s make this a time to feel deeply within our hearts and allow love to flow freely from our souls in all directions.

“What if you thought of it as the Jews consider the Sabbath as the most sacred of times?

Cease from travel. Cease from buying and selling-

Give up, just for now,

On trying to make the world different than it is.

Sing, Pray. Touch only those to whom you commit your life.

Center down. And when your body has become still reach out with your heart.

Know that we are connected in ways that are terrifying and beautiful.

Know that our lives are in one another’s hands. Surely that had come clear.

Do not reach out your hands. reach out your heart.

Reach out your words.

Reach out all the tendrils

of compassion that move, invisibly,

where we cannot touch.

Promise the world you love for better or for worse,

In sickness and in health,

So long as we all shall live.”

Help Us to See the Light Amidst the Darkness

My colleague and Spiritual Leader, Rabbi Arnold  Gluck, has offered inspiration and courage at a time when we are fearful and anxious and we don’t know what tomorrow may bring.

Now, more than ever, we need each other. We need the calming reassurance that we are not alone, that we have each other, and that we will support and help each other to get through this-and we will get through this!

Now, more than ever, we need God. We need the bedrock of faith that reminds us of what is eternal and unchanging, even has so much has changed. We need to remember that the most powerful force in our lives is love-the love God wove into the fabric of existence, a love that is stronger than any virus or illness of plague that might beset us.

Now, more than ever, we need prayer. Not the kind of prayer that asks God to change the laws of nature. We know such things are impossible; God and prayer do not work that way.

We need the kind of prayer that opens our hearts to give and receive the love that will sustain us, the love that will quell our anxiety and give us strength to bear the burdens of this crisis, the love that will keep us connected to each other, to God, and to hope.

Dear God,

Give us strength to bear the burdens,

the fears and anxieties,

the demand of this trying time.

Sooth our troubled spirits

With the warmth of Your love

and the assurance that you are with us always.

Help us to see the light amidst the darkness.

Open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us

and within each and everyone of us.

Bless us with courage.

Bless us with hope.

Bless us with faith

that a new day will dawn

And the light of Your peace will shine upon us all.”

Doing the Right Thing

A rabbi has taught that doing the right thing is a prized religious value. And recently, science has aligned with God,

Doing the right thing, the good thing, the decent thing, turns out to be good for the do-er as well. Ariana Huffngton quotes the philosopher Seneca, “No one can live happily who has regard for themselves alone.” That is the hypothesis and two thousand years later, the evidence is now coming in.

Studies demonstrate that those who volunteer feel healthier, less stressed, more joyful, and better able to connect with others. Older volunteers have less depression, a lower risk of Alzheimer’s, and a stronger sense of purpose in their later years. And a stronger sense of purpose also strengthens immune functions – volunteers may very well live longer.

Something good is happening here. Doing good for others is good for ourselves. The Book of Proverbs teaches: one who runs to do just and kind deeds; such a person achieves well-being and an increased sense of goodness and self-worth.
Looking for the model righteous person on the internet is an interesting search. If you want to learn foe righteous people in America, look for them under “humanitarian.” These are the people people out there on the front lines, who really have a passion for a cause, and want to do something meaningful and significant.

There is a legend in Jewish folklore about 36 righteous people who live somewhere on this earth at any moment. They don’t know who they are, and we don’t know who they are. But because of them the world manages to survive.

It is a great legend. Because we can all use one of the 36 every now and then. And you never know who it might be. So think about it. Do you know one? Could you be one?

To quote the rabbi “As we think of our shortcomings may we be inspired by the great ones, the righteous ones, who help so many to brighten their world and their future, and who light the way for you and me with a brilliant flame of impassioned concern that can’t help but leave its mark of goodness and hope upon us all.”

Why Am I Here? What Is My Purpose?

Why am I here? What is my purpose? How can I find meaning in my life?

A group of followers came to study with their Spiritual Leader and found him sitting and weeping. They tried to console him.

“Why are you crying?” they asked.

“When I was young, he said, “I thought I could change the world, so I set out to try. That’s how I learned that the world is a very difficult thing to change.”

“When I turned thirty, I decided that it was just as important for me to perfect my small corner of the world, so I placed all my energies into trying to improve my community and my students. That’s how learned that communities and classes cannot be made perfect.”

“At the age of forty, I set about just to change my family. I spent hours with my children trying to make them perfect. But, I learned that even families cannot be perfected.”

“When I reached my maturity, I realized that there was only one who would listen to the lessons I had been placed in the world to teach, so I set out to perfect myself. But, now I realize that even that is beyond my power.”

The students were afraid. If even the great Spiritual Leader and Teacher, could not perfect himself, what chance did they have? They turned to consoling him even more. “You have become a righteous and holy man. What you do is just and right. You should not mourn because you are not perfect After all, the Holy One doesn’t ask us to be perfect. Only the Holy One is perfect.”

“No, said he, “you misunderstand. I am not weeping because of the great blessing that has been granted to me.”

“We don’t understand. What blessing is that?” the students asked, totally confused at this point.

The Spiritual Leader answered, “All through my life, the Holy One has given me the strength to try. At each step of my life, I have been blessed to to to try to make my world a better place. I cry with joy for being given all these years in which to live this amazing journey.”
May we be granted the years to take our amazing journey, one challenge, one change, and one value at a time.