I understand the reason I will be breaking a glass under my foot at the end of the wedding ceremony is to commemorate the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem some 2000 years ago. This indeed was a significant event in Jewish history, but it doesn't seem to have any personal relevance to me. What does a destroyed building have to do with my wedding?
The destruction of the Temple has extreme personal relevance. It happened to you. The shattering of the glass commemorates not only the fall of Jerusalem, but also a cataclysmic shattering that happened to your very own temple, your soul.
Before you were born, you and your soulmate were one - a single soul. Then, as your time to enter this world approached, G-d shattered that single soul into two parts, one male and one female. These two half souls were then born into the world to try and find each other and reunite.
At the time, the split seemed tragic. What was once a peaceful unit had become fragmented and incomplete. Why break something just so it should be fixed? If you were meant to be together, why didn't G-d leave you together?
Only when standing under the Chuppah do you find the answer to this question. At the wedding, these two halves are becoming whole, reuniting never to part again. And you can look back at the painful experience of being separated, and actually celebrate it. For now you realise that the separation brought you closer. Only by being torn apart, living lives away from each other, were you able to develop as individuals, mature and grow, and then come together in a true relationship, a deeper oneness than you had before, because it is created by your choice. Had you never been separated, you would never appreciate what it means to be together, because it wasn't earned. At the wedding you realise that your soul was only split in order to reunite and become one on a higher and deeper level than before.
And so we break a glass under the Chuppah, and we immediately say Mazel Tov. Because now, in retrospect, even the splitting of the souls is reason to be joyous, for it gave your connection depth and real meaning.
So you see, your personal story and the story of Jerusalem's destruction are inextricably linked. The shattering that happened to Jerusalem happened to your soul; and the joy you are experiencing now will one day be experienced by Jerusalem too.
The Temple was not a mere building, it was the meeting place of heaven and earth, ideal and reality, G-d and creation. When the Temple was lost, with it went the open relationship between G-d and the world. Our souls were ripped away from our Soulmate.
The only antidote to fragmentation is unity. And the deepest unity is experienced at a wedding. Every wedding is a healing, a mending of one fragmented soul, a rebuilding of Jerusalem in miniature. Our sages teach us, "Whoever celebrates with a bride and groom it is as if he rebuilt one of the ruins of Jerusalem." When soulmates reunite in holy marriage, an energy of love and oneness is generated, elevating the world and bringing it one step closer to mending its broken relationship with G-d.
And one day soon, when the Temple in Jerusalem is rebuilt, our souls will reunite with G-d, our Soulmate, in a true relationship that we built ourselves. We will no longer mourn the destruction, but looking back we will finally understand its purpose, and we will celebrate. Then, even the shattering will deserve a Mazel Tov.
As a believing Christian, I made a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I was profoundly disturbed by the Jewish state and its criminal occupation of the West Bank. How can you justify usurping land that belongs to others?
You are entitled to your opinion on the matter. But I hope you are consistent in your beliefs. Being that you oppose a Jewish presence on the West Bank, I assume you will not be participating in any celebrations during the coming days. According to your view, there is no reason to be merry on December 25.
The Christian holidays celebrate an event that you have named a criminal act - the birth of a Jewish baby to a Jewish family living in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Your views should not allow you to have any part in this cheer, for if you did you would be giving retroactive approval to a Jewish settlement on the West Bank that dates back more than two thousand years.
Perhaps you will be joined by the UN and other humanitarian organizations around the world condemning any celebrations this week that are connected with this controversial birth, as such events would be recognizing the rights of a Jewish family to live on what you see as occupied territory.
However I must warn you, by espousing this view and not celebrating, you will be vastly outnumbered. Not that it's so bad to be in the minority, I personally have been all my life. But keep in mind, while you accuse Israel of occupying land, there will be two billion Christians around the world celebrating the fact that the West Bank has always been the home of the Jewish people.
Why is dating so hard these days? Never in history have people struggled with relationships so much. So many of my friends are still single and looking. And even my married friends seem to have to work hard to keep it together. What's wrong with us?
We are a generation of complicated souls. Some of it is our own doing, but some of it is the destiny thrust upon us. The knotty world of modern dating is partly a reflection of the complex nature of the modern soul.
The search for a soulmate will be made easier or harder depending on what type of soul you have. The master kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria taught that only new souls have an easy time finding their soulmate. When your soul comes to this world for the first time, you are fresh and unencumbered. Your vision is clear and your heart is open, and it is easy to recognise your soulmate.
But for those souls who have been here before, reincarnated souls, it doesn't come so easily. Reincarnated souls come to the world with the baggage of their previous life, and though every soul is born pure, a reincarnated soul is born complicated.
So while a new soul will meet and recognise their soulmate immediately, an old soul will have to work harder. They may have to meet many others before they meet the right one. They may need to do a lot of growing and inner development before being ready to recognise their soulmate. There is a lot of stuff to get over first - like unrealistic expectations, over-specific requirements, exaggerated self-images, superficial hang-ups and the residue of relationships of the past. And even when soulmates do find each other, they will have to work hard to make things work.
The kabbalists declared that almost all souls these days have been here before. Very few new souls are coming down. So we can expect the search for soulmates to be more challenging now than ever. Our souls are carrying baggage - some we have inherited and some our own doing - and only by working through those layers do we remove the barriers that stand between our soul and our soulmate.
The best way to bring about meeting your soulmate is to be more in touch with your own soul. When your soul is pulsating with inspiration and clarity, when you are spiritually grounded and bringing goodness to your surroundings, then you are most prone to meeting your soulmate. It may take some effort, but that is your destiny.
My child always blames everyone else for his own misbehaviour. It's always "he started it," "she made me do it," and nothing is ever his fault. How can I teach him to take responsibility for his actions and not shift blame to others?
Yesterday my two year old son snatched a toy from his older sister. She was about to throttle him, so I intervened. I saw this as a chance to impart some Jewish wisdom, so I explained to my daughter the idea of our two inner voices - the Yetzer Tov and the Yetzer Hora.
There's a voice inside that tells me to be upright, moral and well-behaved. This is my drive to be good, called the Yetzer Tov. But I also have a deviant and rebellious side, an inner voice that tries to convince me to do whatever is wrong and hurtful and selfish, known as the Yetzer Hora.
These two voices constantly battle to win me over. I have to choose which side gets the upper hand. And I am responsible for my choice. If I listen to my darker side, then I only have myself to blame.
So before my daughter had the chance to attack her brother I asked her, "Are you going to listen to your Yetzer Hora and hit your brother, or are you going to listen to your Yetzer Tov and just find something else to play with?"
This turned things around. Instead of being in a fight with her brother, she was now facing an inner struggle of evil versus good. She can no longer excuse her behaviour by saying, "He started it." No matter who started it, if she hits him, she has made a bad choice. It was her own Yetzer Hora that she succumbed to.
On the other hand, if she chooses not to hurt her brother and walks away she is not a loser, but a winner. She didn't lose a fight with her brother, but rather won a battle with her own evil inclination. Either way, the choice is hers, and she is responsible for that choice.
She thought about it for a second, and then made her choice. She gave her brother a whack in the face.
Well, at least I tried.
But it was not a failure. Even though she didn't do what I wanted her to do, she heard what I had to say. This episode reinforced in her little mind the idea that there is an inner battle of good and evil. In the long run, with repetition and patience, that message will sink in.
Kids fight. They won't change so quickly. But by moving the battleground from the outside to a battle within, we can help our children channel their aggression toward fighting their own evil, and in the end, their own good side will win.
Why don't we see miracles today like the Jews saw in the story of Chanuka? And don't tell me that every day is a miracle, childbirth is a miracle, the sunrise is a miracle, blah blah blah. I am talking about splitting seas, dead people coming alive, voices from heaven type of miracles. The really supernatural stuff. What happened to that? Why did the people of biblical times get all the special effects and we don't? Has G-d retired?
Have you ever wished you were a child again? Don't kids have it made? Their parents do everything for them. The child is hungry and amazingly food appears in front of them. They hurt themselves and the parent is immediately there to kiss them better. They are lovingly put to sleep at night, and taken out of bed in the morning. It is a comforting and secure existence. But it doesn't last for long.
As the child develops and grows, the parents gradually withdraw. A baby becomes a toddler, they can walk on their own two feet, feed themselves, and look after some of their own needs. Eventually they will grow to be young children, and can even go out of the house for the day, without their parents, and go to school. Then they become teenagers, when they assert their independence even more. Teenagers often brush off their parents' advice, because they have to find their own way, and they think that they know best. As difficult as it is, the parents have to accept this as a part of their child's maturation process, and to some extent allow the teenager to make some silly mistakes. Otherwise they will never grow up.
The parents have to let go, because only then can the child finally grow up, and become an adult. Then, as a developed and mature adult, they can relate to their parents with respect and understanding. They don't need their parents to clothe and feed them anymore, they can do that themselves. But they can enjoy a relationship that is even deeper and more real, because now, as an adult, they have grown to appreciate what their parents have done for them. That they are the person that they are due to the love and attention that their parents devoted to them.
Humanity has taken a similar course. In the early days, G-d was like a loving parent, very apparent and obviously looking after us. He spoke to people to give them directions, He intervened by doing miracles to save His children from harm. The wicked were punished immediately, and the righteous rewarded. That was the era of humanity's infancy. We had yet to develop the spiritual tools to relate to G-d in any subtle or sublime way, so He spoon-fed us with open miracles.
As humanity developed spiritually, so G-d withdrew His open manifestations in our lives. As a parent allows their child more and more freedom, so G-d removed His open interference in world affairs. But of course, while the parent may not interfere, they never really withdraw their love and attention. They oversee every move their growing child makes, and quietly influence their child's life direction, albeit from the sidelines. Similarly, as time has moved on, G-d is just as present as before, pulling the strings of history and human destiny this way and that, but not in such an obvious and obtrusive way as through a miracle. He hides behind the coincidences and daily occurrences that seem on the surface to be quite normal. But on reflection, they are not. The hand of G-d is clearly there.
Over the last couple of centuries, humanity went through an adolescent rebellion. We threw off the yoke of our Heavenly Parent and sought independence. Belief in G-d was seen as a childish crutch and an immature myth. But our generation, having learnt from the adolescent mistakes of modern history, is starting to mature. We are realising that our Divine Parent's values are not so bad after all. And we as a generation are seeking to reconnect with G-d and true spirituality, not as children who need miracles to convince us, but as spiritual adults, who can discern the magic behind the everyday, and the Divine within the mundane. We are finally coming of age.
Perhaps this new thirst for G-d is the greatest miracle of all.