I have been an atheist for a while now. I don't feel I am missing anything with G-d out of my life. If anything I am more free. It has made me wonder, if I lose my religion, have I really lost anything worthwhile?
People often make the mistake of thinking that if you take away religion, you just get rid of G-d. This is not true. You lose much more than G-d when you drop religion. Something else you lose when you drop religion is the idea of family.
Family is a concept that cannot be taken for granted. The family is built and sustained on a belief system, a set of values, a worldview that sees marriage as a sacred covenant and parenthood as a moral responsibility. Without these supporting beliefs, the family is a baseless ideal that will erode with time. And these beliefs are religious.
Only religion can provide a meaning to life that is higher than me. I was created with a purpose that is beyond myself. I am here to serve. I was given the gift of life, and I should share it with others. Without these beliefs, there is no ideological base for the concept of family. No secular argument is strong enough to inspire you to give up your own freedom to get married and have children.
Look around at secular societies. The less religious the society, the weaker its families. In a secular world marriage is trumped by casual relationships, and having children is tolerated as long as it doesn't interfere with career and living my life my way. The lonely, unattached individual is idealized in a godless world. The disintegration of family life in the west is a direct result of its secularization.
Of course there are atheists and secularists who make devoted husbands and
loving wives, dedicated mothers and attentive fathers. But this is in spite of their atheism, not because of it. People often do things that are not consistent with their beliefs. A secular family is one example. Having a family is an act of faith no less religious than attending prayer services.
You may not see the full of impact of secularism in one generation. But in another generation or two, the family unit as we know it will be the exclusive domain of the religious. The children of today's atheists are less likely to get married and have children of their own.
We need G-d in our lives, not for His sake, but for the sake of our children. By rejecting G-d and religion, secularists are throwing out their babies with the bath water.
SPECIAL TORAH READING - ZACHOR tomorrow 11am, mitzvah for men women and children to hear
Question of the Week:
I have an acquaintance who was born in Germany, but raised most of his life in the USA. His father was a member of the Nazi youth. I find this very difficult to ignore. My friend is not like his father. Yet he made a point to tell me of his father's past and his father's hatred of Jews. Can I truly befriend such a person??
There is a precedent for your question. It goes all the way back to the story of Purim.
Haman was the wicked Persian minister who plotted the annihilation of the Jewish people. Through a complex sequence of seeming coincidences that were only retrospectively recognized as miraculous, his plot was overturned, the Jews saved, and Haman executed on the very gallows he had prepared for the Jewish leader Mordechai.
We celebrate the festival of Purim to remember Haman's downfall and the victory of the Jewish people over their enemies. But there is a little known ironic addendum to the story. Haman's relationship with the Jewish people continued posthumously in a most curious way.
The Talmud relates that "Haman's grandchildren studied Torah in Bnei Brak." That means Haman had Jewish offspring. The very man who wanted to destroy the Jews had rabbis as his descendants.
When the Haman family came to convert to Judaism, their background was known, and yet they were embraced by the Jewish people as one of us. Indeed a the great Talmudic rabbi, Shmuel bar Shilas, was a member of that family.
We don't hold children culpable for the wrongs of their fathers. A child or grandchild of a monster who disassociates from the evils of the past should be accepted for who they are. Whether Persian or German or Amalekite, the gates of reconciliation are always open.
We should never exonerate unrepentant perpetrators of evil. But their innocent children who actively repudiate their ways, move to a new society and adopt different values, should not suffer for the moral failures of their forebears.
Haman was evil. His grandchildren weren't. They celebrated Purim too. What better expression of the triumph of good over evil can there be than that.
Mazal Tov to the Nefesh soccer team on their convincing win against Double Bay Chabad last Sunday.
Our kids team played amazingly too, winning 10-8 (though both sides were Nefesh kids).
Thank you to everyone who came to play or support the day- it was a lot of fun.
Special thanks to Lior Segre for organizing, Avishay Ziv from RedFig for supplying jerseys and Nick and Sara Tredler of Kickaroos for providing equipment.
SERVICES AT NEFESH ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Candlelighting 7:23pm (not before 6:19pm)
Shabbos Service - 6:30pm followed by Kiddush sponsored by Jonathan Shapira and Gilda Cohen-Shapira in honour of the upcoming wedding in London of Gilda's daughter, Natalia Wise, to Robert Beenstock (of London) - Mazal Tov!
and by Martine and Michael Springer in honour of their son Yoni's 6th birthday- Mazal Tov!
Class - The Spiritual Parsha 9am
Morning Service 10am -12:20pm followed by Kiddush sponsored in honour of the Aufruf and wedding of David Zurnamer and Nicola Marishel- Mazal Tov!
I know Purim is supposed to be a happy holiday, but when I look at myself and my life I see no good reason to be happy. On the contrary, I have plenty of reasons to be miserable. Am I supposed to be able just switch on happiness at will? Answer:
You are facing some heavy challenges, and your feelings of despair are understandable. But you can turn your situation around. Happiness is never beyond your reach. Happiness is the natural human state. Just look at a little child. Kids don't need to learn strategies for positive living, and they don't need a reason to be happy. They need a reason to be sad. If a child cries, we ask, "What's wrong?" If a child laughs and plays and dances around the room, we don't ask, "What's the big celebration about? Why are you happy?" A child is happy by default. If they aren't happy there must be a reason, like they need to be changed, they are hungry or thirsty or tired, or need attention, or just had a Bris. But as long as nothing's wrong, a child is happy for no reason at all. Somewhere along the line things change. We grow older and become more demanding, harder to please and we lose this childish contentment. As we become jaded by life's disappointments, we feel that we need a reason to be happy. If you see an adult walking around with a big smile, you ask, "What's wrong with you, why are you smiling?"
The difference is, a child is not self-conscious. They are free to be happy because they are not yet aware of themselves. It is only when we mature and become more self-aware that we also become more self-absorbed. We have worries and concerns, unfulfilled desires and unrealised dreams. None of us can honestly say we have it all, and we can always find reason to be upset. But a child isn't so aware of themselves and what they are missing, so they have it all. Their lack of self-consciousness leaves them free to enjoy life and be happy. The more you are concerned with your own happiness, the farther you are away from achieving it. As soon as you forget about what you need and instead focus on what you are needed for, the good you can do for others rather than the good you can get for yourself, your childlike joy comes flowing back and you are happy.
This is the focus of Purim, a time to give gifts to friends, donations to the needy, to say LeChaim, loosen our grip on our self and thank G-d for the opportunity to be alive. Even in the darkest times, by becoming mission-focused rather than self-focused, we can access our inner joy. Happiness is not somewhere out there; it rests within, in that part of us that is forever young and forever giving - our soul. Good Shabbos, Rabbi Moss
I know the Ten Commandments require us to respect our parents. But not all parents are respectable. My father has been mean, dishonest and crooked all his life. He is old now and needs me, but there is nothing in his life that deserves respect. How can I respect my father without losing my dignity?
Respecting your father doesn't mean that you think he is all good. But surely he can't be all bad. Surely you can think of some redeeming feature, something good your father has done. There must be something for which you can say that he is a worthwhile person. Can't you think of one good thing he has achieved?
I can. You.
Like it or not, you are a product of your parents. No matter how different you are to them, no matter how far you go to avoid repeating their mistakes, you will never be able to change the simple fact that they are your parents. Whether they were good parents or horrible parents, whether they built you up or put you down, they are where you come from.
Your father brought you into the world. If you honestly think your father is all bad, without a good bone in his body, then on some level you will see yourself as another one of his failures. Your existence stems from his, and if he is completely bad, what are you? If you cannot muster any respect for your parents, you will struggle to respect yourself.
The fact that he fathered a child who has a clear sense of right and wrong, and is aware of his wrongdoing, means he must not be all bad. He may not get the credit for your moral sensitivity, but he does get some credit for your existence. If nothing else, you can at least respect him for that. Far from compromising your dignity, respecting your father forms the basis for your dignity, because he, along with your mother and G-d, was a partner in your birth.
Respect does not mean accepting his failings or excusing his misdeeds. It doesn't mean admiring him or emulating his ways. And you have no obligation to subject yourself to further pain. But when in your father's presence, you must treat him as a father. If he needs help, assist him. When he speaks, listen respectfully, even if you disagree. Failing that, your self-respect has shaky foundations.
You don't have to respect the life your father has led. But you do have to honour your father, even if just to honour his greatest achievement, his son.