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Intro:
Several months ago I had the opportunity to have lunch with a dear friend of mine who I have known for over 12 years. Although our relationship started out as a family friendship it eventually led to our family attending their church – he is a pastor.

We were called out of the church about 3 ½ years ago to start an incredibly exciting journey which will not end – and actually seems like it only just began. I had recently been trying to share with him the truths that G-d had revealed to us over this short time by extending an invitation to attend a study in our home but he declined.

He did, however, accept an invitation to lunch to celebrate his birthday – as is our custom. I had intended to discuss, at least to some degree, our recent experiences and encourage him to look further and find the truth that has been covered from “our” eyes for nearly two thousand years. “G-d is calling His people back to Torah”….this most excellent news was answered with grave concern spread across his face. My friend’s concern was primarily regarding my relationship with Jesus Christ and I assured him that this was not a salvation issue but a sanctification issue.

He agreed to continue a discussion over email exchange as best that our schedules would allow…and so begins what I would like to share with you: “Thoughts from lunch”. This will be a short series of exchanges (there is a total of 2 emails from him and 2 responses from me) between the two of us that I have found challenging. I will post his emails for your review and practice on how you may have responded. Every few days I will post the next exchange.

Below (the first email) is my friend responding to my explanation of how we are to live out our faith.

Email Subject: Thoughts from lunch (#1)

“Hey Brother, Thank you for the lunch. I am glad we had a chance to share our hearts with one another. We are family in Jesus Christ. I was concerned, however, about some of your statements about the new covenant and what it means to live under the new covenant. My concerns come from the Book of Hebrews, especially Hebrews 8:6-13, Hebrews 9:10, and Hebrews 10:9-10. Hebrews 8:13 uses the word obsolete in the NKJV. In Strong’s Concordance it is number 3822 in the dictionary in the back. The word means to make or become worn out, to declare obsolete. That is a strong statement about the old covenant. We can talk more after you study it out. Thanks again for the lunch.”

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“Seek the welfare of the city…and pray to G-d for it, for in its peace, you shall have peace.” – Jeremiah 29:7

This verse speaks to all of us across America. This verse is a call to action. In each city we live in, and in each town we have an obligation as citizens, Jew and Non-Jew alike, to heed the call. We should be asking several questions to ourselves and one another.

  1. What can we do to positively affect our community?
  2. How can we improve our local government?
  3. How can we increase support for Israel?
  4. How can we be a light of Torah and sanctify the name of HaShem in our community?

We must not let our society become passive. It is our responsibility as citizens to hold our government accountable and improve our standard of living. How have we come so far from our glorious beginnings? The answer may be summarized as laziness. I speak to myself as well as everyone else who expects to be taken care of, and expects the government to handle all our problems. Arise, you sleepers! Shake off your slumber. Start taking on an active role in the community and the local government. If you see a need, then fill a need. Do not expect the government to solve each problem. We all have special gifts and talents that we were graciously granted by HaShem for the purpose of glorifying His name and improving the world around us. Some may proclaim a lack of ability and creativity is what hinders his/her involvement. In this case, offer what you have. If you have hands and feet, then use them to volunteer time and strength for the good of the community. The simple act of cleaning up litter, planting trees, walking for charity can inspire and spark unity in your city/town. Some may claim a lack of time. Beware of time, as with money, becoming a primary focus and an idol. Remember who grants us time and seek to improve the community and government.

Local governments are equally as susceptible to corruption as state and national government. If accountability is not held by us then we leave the door of deviance wide open. Deviance from the Bible, from our Constitution, and ultimately from our well-being. A grave notion to consider is the absence of our political involvement equals a lack of troubles and trials. Does a tree produce fruit without working hands and the assistance of G-d? We cannot expect wholesome fruit from our government without individual participation of citizens and prayers for Divine wisdom. The inspiration of a nation begins with an individual.

To answer the initial question, “What can we do to positively affect our community?” Begin by supporting your community in various ways. Do not jump into politics without a thorough understanding of the community and solid knowledge of the city/town government system. Here are some ideas for becoming an active citizen.

  1. Planting trees.
  2. Walk for charity.
  3. Clean litter.
  4. Donate to non-profits.
  5. Host fund raising events.
  6. Educating yourself in local, state, and national politics. Know the views, intentions, and standing with Israel of key leaders.
  7. Voice your opinion. If you don’t agree with something than express it in writing, email, or by phone to the appropriate person.
  8. Host educational sessions to inform people of political situations.
  9. Begin educating your children and the youth in the community.

George Bush wrote to the Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson : “Our nation’s moral tradition – indeed, the development of all Western civilization – has been deeply influenced by the laws and teachings contained in the Bible. It was a Biblical view of man, one affirming the dignity and worth of the human person made in the image of the Creator, that inspired the principles up on which the United States is founded.”

The inspired principles Former President Bush spoke of are disintegrating. The initial influence of the Bible on America is fading. Nevertheless, we are capable of individually reverting back to the morals and standards our nation was founded upon in hopes that communities, and local, state, and national governments will soon follow. The inspiration of a nation begins with an individual.

What are some other beneficial activities not listed?

What caused the divagation from America’s established principles?

Your thoughts are greatly encouraged.

Money.

“Time is money. Money makes the world go round. Money doesn’t grow on trees.”

These are only a few phrases that have become all too familiar in our society. The strong focus on money and possessions in our lives has become idolatry. We learn from a very young age to save our money, then to work for money, and ultimately to make your money work for you. Money itself is a good thing because it allows us to provide the necessities of life to our families, but the obsessive focus on money is dangerous. When we begin putting money first before the most important things, especially G-d and our families, we are participating in a form of idol worship. Of course no one literally bows down and praises money, but placing it before G-d violates the first commandment out of the ten. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Deuteronomy 5:7

In parasha Mattot, we see the same problem with money our society faces today. The tribes of Gad and Reuben requested to “build sheepfolds for our cattle and cities for our children.” Note the first construction was for the protection of their livestock which was a form of currency and second was for the protection and shelter of their own children. Moses corrected them and declared that the construction of the cities be primary and shelter for the livestock be secondary. The Torah is teaching us the order of priorities for men. The teachings and commandments of Torah are “everlasting” and this hierarchy of priorities has great relevance for the society in which we reside. Today, people are focusing their time, energy, and resources on the acquisition and squandering of money. Individual justification of monetary obsession may vary, but the skewed order of precedence should be corrected. It is imperative for the health of ourselves, our families, and our country that we apply Biblical prioritization and forsake the global idolatry. “For the commandment [Torah] is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life…” Proverbs 6:23. Our way of life should radiate the light of HaShem and our focus should be on what He deems important, not what the world says is important.

“Money can buy sex – but not love; money can buy a bed – but not sleep; money can buy status – but not honor; money can buy a pint of blood – but not life; money can buy a clock – but not time; money can buy a book – but not knowledge; and money can buy a house – but not a family.” -Rabbi Larry Raphael

Let us purpose to humbly receive the correction of Moses to Gad and Reuben as if it were to us and may we love the L-RD our G-d with all our heart and with all our soul and with all our might.

Money is only one of the idols currently plaguing the world. What other idols are rampant in our society? How do we identify and combat these idols? Are there specific idols you have purposed to shelter your children from?

by tzadikguy

Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon says: If two sit together and there are no words of Torah between them, it is a session of scorners, as it is said: ‘In the session of scorners he does not sit.’ But if two sit together and words of Torah are between them, the Divine Presence rests between them, as it is said: ‘Then those who fear HaShem spoke to one another, and HaShem listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear HaShem and give thought to His Name.’ From this verse we would know this only about two people; how do we know that if even one person sits and occupies himself with Torah the Holy One, Blessed is He, determines a reward for him? For it is said: ‘Let one sit in solitude and be still, for he will have received [a reward] for it.’
Pirkei Avot 3:3

Rabbi Shimon said: If three have eaten at the same table and have not spoken words of Torah there, it is as if they have eaten of offerings to the dead idols, as it is said: ‘For all tables are full of vomit and filth, without the Omnipresent.’ But if three have eaten at the same table and have spoken words of Torah there, it is as if they have eaten from the table of the Omnipresent, as it is said: ‘And he said to me, “This is the table this is before HaShem.”‘
Pirkei Avot 3:4

These are some strong statements and ones that challenge the way we live. These are statements that make us uncomfortable and lead us to possibly justify our actions by saying, “This is so legalistic”. Though these statements may seem presumptuous or too difficult to accomplish, they are simply examples of living out the Shema.

4“Hear, O Israel: The L-RD our God, the L-RD is one. 5You shall love the L-RD your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. 8You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. 9You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”
Devarim [Deuteronomy] 6:4-9

It would seem that we should talk about His mitzvot and Torah in general at ALL times. Whether it is at the dinner table, or with some friends we should be discussing Torah at least for a little while. This is not just a good idea it is a mitzvah and we should all take this very seriously. Just thinking about this task is quite daunting. Trying to bring up Torah or the Bible in every situation will be difficult but I can guarantee topics and discussion will become easier to initiate the more you know the Tanach. You will find yourself with much to say and much to share the more you study and apply the Tanach in your life. The classic snowball effect relates perfectly to this situation. The more you study, the more you want to discuss, the more discussion leads to more questions and possibly more people to discuss with, then before you know it you are bringing up Torah in all situations. Gentlemen, this should be our end goal. If we long to be a light to the nations and set an example for those around us then it is imperative to study, apply, then discuss and teach. Let’s get the ball rolling and intensify our study of HaShem’s beautiful gift: The Torah.

Some great ideas for increasing study time are using the available resources including:

What are some study methods and resources you have discovered?

by Tzadikguy

Today I was reading a chapter entitled “Responsibility” from the excellent book, Toward a Meaningful Life. In general, responsibility may be easily viewed as specific tasks assigned to us throughout our life. We are responsible for our grades in school, for our pets, for our money, for our car, etc..Often times a person’s responsibilities are selfish or materialistic, and they are quick to relieve themselves of responsibility when there is a problem.

Now, let us stop and take a look at life and the reason for living. Why has HaShem allowed us to wake up alive and healthy today? It is so that we may fulfill our responsibility as human beings. We are here to draw closer to HaShem and be a light to the nations. We are responsible for fulfilling our purpose by making the correct decisions. By considering the purpose of life, we are able to accurately understand our foundational responsibility. Once we have this understanding then our specific responsibilities become more focused and purposed on the most important things in life. If we are focused on personal gain, acceptance, happiness, or any other selfish desire then it will have a direct effect on what we perceive to be our responsibility. We are responsible for keeping Torah, being a light to those around us, influencing our community and society, and using our special gifts and talents to help and improve the world. Free-will is a gracious gift from HaShem. Will you chose to take responsibility and start making the right decisions?

Of course, the most important element is implementation and action. How can you take responsibility in your workplace? In your community? What are some good habits to develop to remind us of our purpose in life?

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