Friday, December 31, 2010

Why Smash a Glass? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
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?

Answer: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.

The Rate of Exchange

Monday, December 13, 2010

Chabad in Cyberspace

As you probably know, Chabad-Lubavitch is the known leader in Jewish information and education on the web, as highlighted by an independent study conducted by JInsider which painted Chabad as the “Brand leader”.

This Chanukah, however, was another turning point in the story of Chabad-Lubavitch on the web.

While Chanukah is traditionally a peak traffic time, with millions of people searching for information, entertainment and more, this Chanukah proved to push the number off the charts. This year’s record-breaking traffic was simply a testament to the continued growth and reach of Chabad-Lubavitch in “Cyberspace”.

Here are the stats:

  • 2.1 million (2,109,653) unique households visited during Chanukah this year
  • 6 million (6,003,839) pages were accessed in eight different languages (our Russian site alone had more than 50,000 page views)
  • 350,000 visitors accessed over 1.1 million pages on shluchim’s local sites.
  • 158,062 videos were watched on Jewish.TV
  • 32,342 Chanukah songs were played
  • 39,583 latke recipe pages were printed
  • 112,861 played the Chanukah blessings
  • 97,921 people received Chanukah greeting cards from friends
  • referred 60,000 to Shluchim's local websites and events

Hanukkah menorah lightings around the globe

Thursday, December 9, 2010

But He Started It! by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
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.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Review of Lesson Six

Dear JLI Student,

Thank you for joining us for the sixth and final lesson of Medicine and Morals: Secret Code. The following is a brief summary of the lesson:

There are various reasons given by secular ethicists for the importance of confidentiality. In all, these concerns are mostly limited to a professional relationship, e.g., doctor and patient, lawyer and client, etc. Judaism, however, views confidentiality as an obligation incumbent on all. It is forbidden to disseminate even true information about others, even if the information is innocuous. The violation is far more egregious in the case of negative information. This is true even if the subject has not asked that the information remain private. The default position of Judaism is that no one is allowed to share information about others without express permission.

However, when maintaining confidentiality will result in harm to an innocent person, whether physical or financial, it is obligatory to breach confidentiality and reveal the details to the innocent person. Thus, when a parent is diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease and does not want to share this information with his children that plan on marrying, the doctor must breach confidentiality and warn the children in order to protect their prospective spouses. The need for an individual to know that he or she has HD is not sufficient reason to breach confidentiality because there is in any case no known treatment, so there is no direct benefit to having this information. However, a prospective spouse would want to take this information into account in deciding whether to marry someone, and therefore, one would be obligateded to breach confidentiality in order to make sure that the prospective spouse could make an informed decision.

Even when a physician is permitted and obligated to reveal medical information to a third party, it is always better if the physician can convince the patient to reveal this information themselves. Only when this is not successful should the physician do so.

However, if the physician will suffer financially by breaching confidentiality, because of a lawsuit, loss of job, etc., then a more nuanced approach is needed. If the harm to the innocent party is non-life threatening, then the physician has no obligation to incur financial loss and may keep the secret. If however there is a real threat to life, then the physician must disregard his/her financial loss and reveal the information to save the life of the innocent party.

This brings the fall course to a close. Thanks so much for joining us for Medicine and Morals. It has been an amazing journey. Our upcoming winter course will be Towards A Meaningful Life. I hope you will join us then for this fascinating course. Stay tuned for details.


Rabbi Shmuly Altein

Friday, November 26, 2010

Liberated Learning

Grand Opening, Chanukah Concert & Community Lighting of Giant Menorah

Grand Opening celebration of Winnipeg's first Jewish Learning Centre

With much gratitude, joy and excitement, we invite you to attend the historic dedication of the new Jewish Learning Centre on Sunday, December 5th at 3pm.

The community-wide program will feature an exciting family concert, a special video presentation, a festive lighting of a giant menorah (the largest in Western Canada), and will conclude with our annual car menorah parade accompanied by a remarkable display of fireworks.

Come celebrate our very own modern-day Chanukah miracle!

For more information, please visit our newly designed website at or call us at 414-5624.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Genetics and the Ethics of Patient Confidentiality | Lesson Six

Join us for Lesson Six: Secret Code

Genetic testing unlocks secrets that used to be unknowable. They can be used to identify parentage; they can be used to predict illness and death. But what happens if this information gets into the wrong hands—or is withheld from the people who need it most?

Does a potential spouse have the right to know that her husband-to-be will likely be dead before the age of fifty of an illness that does not yet have any external symptoms?

And as keeper of the “code,” what is the role of the doctor in all this? When must patient confidentiality be upheld and when must it be set aside?

We’ll talk about this during our last lesson of Medicine and Morals at the new Jewish Learning Centre!

What's the difference between a neurotic, psychotic and psychiatrist?

The first one builds castles in the sky, the second one lives in them, the psychiatrist? He collects the rent!

Review of Lesson Five

Dear Student,

Thank you for joining us for Lesson Five of Medicine and Morals: With You In Mind. The following is a brief summary of what we learned:

As humans, we stand apart from all other creatures because of our cognitive ability. When this ability to reason and discern is weakened or impaired, it is very tragic. Judaism obligates us to treat mental illness in the same way that we are obligated to treat physical illness. Halachah regards the recommendations of a qualified psychiatrist with the same esteem as the recommendations of other physicians, and takes account of mental well-being when issuing a ruling.

Kissing in Public by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
I have an issue with religious Jews. They have this thing about not showing affection in public. You would never see a very religious couple holding hands walking down the street and certainly not kissing in public, as it is considered immodest. But I think this teaches children that affection is bad and romance is taboo. How will they ever get married if they don't see affectionate parents?

Here is a true story that happened to a family I know. They are observant and G-d fearing people, and indeed the parents never showed physical affection, even in front of their own children.

It once happened that this family was out driving in their van, parents sitting in the front, and their large brood in the back. While stopped at a red light, one of the children pointed out a scene that caught his eye. Right beside the car, on the side of the road, was a young couple engaged in a very public display of affection.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Join us for Lesson Five: With You In Mind

Dear JLI Student,

The history of the treatment of the mentally ill is a sad one. In the seventeenth century, the mentally ill were often chained to walls, whipped, and housed in dungeons with vagrants and criminals.

Nineteenth century reformer Dorothy Dix was at the vanguard creating humane asylums for the insane, where patients were provided sunny rooms and opportunity to exercise outdoors. Yet a century later, many of these asylums were overcrowded and filthy, the chains of an earlier age replaced with surgical lobotomy, electro-convulsive therapy, and stupor-inducing drugs.

With the development of new psychiatric drug treatments in the seventies and eighties, it was felt that the asylums had outlived their usefulness, and most of them were shut down. Yet they were not replaced with appropriate housing alternatives. Today, more than 100,000 people in American jails are mentally ill. Some are held there without charges while they await a bed in a psychiatric hospital.

If excessive interference into the lives of the people who are mentally ill has often resulted in travesty, benign neglect has not yielded more humane results.

In this lesson, we explore some Jewish ethical guidelines for the development of compassionate treatment for people suffering from mental illness.

Looking forward to seeing you next Tuesday.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Review of Lesson Four

Thank you for joining us for Lesson Four of Medicine and Morals: New Beginnings. The following is a brief summary of what we learned:

The need to address the permissibility of the various reproductive technologies is of paramount importance. The Torah documents the deep pain associated with infertility. In addition, Jewish thought views procreation as a religious obligation. Each child who is born plays a fundamental role in developing the spiritual potential of our universe. Thus, for both empathic and spiritual reasons, there is strong incentive to find ways to assist people in their efforts to bear children.

The use of donor sperm raises halachic concerns. Some of the questions revolve around the issue of family: Does using sperm from another man infringe upon the relationship of husband and wife? Will such procedures weaken the desire to marry? Another concern is the possibility of incest should siblings unwittingly marry one another. Given the anonymous nature of sperm donation, this is not a spurious concern, and cases of this kind have been documented

Artificial insemination by husband and IVF using gametes of husband and wife would appear to bypass all these concerns. However, this is only the case if adequate precautions are taken to ensure that there is no inadvertent mix-up of gametes. At this time, fertility clinics are not governed by uniform standards to prevent errors. Some rabbis advocate having independent inspectors to ensure mistakes don’t occur.

In the process of preparing embryos for IVF, it is often the case that more pre-embryos are created than can be implanted. These pre-embryos can be very useful for embryonic stem cell research. Yet a national debate currently rages about the ethical acceptability of this research. Rabbis who have been consulted about this issue note that Halachah permits the destruction of a pre-embryo that will not be used by the parents. Thus, using these pre-embryos for research would be permitted and perhaps even better than outright destruction. “Adopting” pre-embryos by implanting them into other women, an idea advocated by some opponents of embryonic stem cell research, raises many halachic issues similar to those that arise when donor sperm is used to induce pregnancy.

We concluded the lesson by raising some important points: There is no obligation to engage in ART. The mitzvah is to attempt to bear children in the usual manner. Intervention is optional. Those who have not yet succeeded in bearing children should on the one hand stay hopeful and optimistic. On the other hand, they must know that when one cannot fulfill an obligation for reasons beyond their control they have fulfilled their religious obligation and are not held liable for this failure. Moreover, G-d considers it as if the mitzvah was actually done. Finally, they should find comfort in the thought that every person has the opportunity and possibility of finding meaning in life and even the childless can achieve an everlasting legacy through their actions and good deeds.

Some people will express this legacy through fostering or mentoring a child. The Torah considers aiding in the physical and spiritual development of others as analogous to giving birth to them.

We look forward to seeing you next week for Lesson Five of Medicine and Morals in which we will explore the Jewish attitude regarding the ethical treatment of the mentally disabled.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Grow Winnipeg Campaign; Weekly e*Torah

When You've Lost Everything; by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
My life has fallen apart. My husband left me, I have been kicked out of my home and my career is over. And now I am losing my faith too. I used to believe so strongly, but now my thinking has changed. Was I deluded to think that G-d would help me?

Answer:I feel for you in what must be a huge test of your character. Your whole world has been shattered to pieces. Just to get up in the morning and face the day must take mammoth strength.

There is a name for your situation. The Kabbalists call it Ayin Baemtza - "transitional nothingness."

Between any two states of being lies an intermediary state of nonbeing. Like a seed that must become a tree, it first decomposes, nullifies itself and rots into oblivion. Just as it reaches the verge of complete nonexistence, the seed starts to sprout and reinvents itself into a new being. Only by losing its being as a seed and becoming nothing, can it reach a new being, a greater being, as a tree.

It has to be this way. To truly reinvent oneself, there must be a true and complete break from the past, a real nothingness, to make room for the new self to emerge.

You are presently going through an Ayin Baemtza stage in your life. The life that was is gone, the life that will be is yet to blossom, and you are left in a big black hole of confusion, pain and darkness. That is a very hard place to be. Because everyone knows that transitional nothingness is just a temporary state, a step between two stages in life. Everyone knows that except the one who is going through it themselves. For you the nothingness is real. It is hard - maybe impossible - for you to see any bright future ahead.

So what can you do to survive the transitional nothingness? What will keep you going until you transform into the you of tomorrow?

In your state of nothingness you need to hold on to something higher than yourself. Now, you need faith, not philosophy. Say to yourself: My life is in disarray, I don't know what's flying, I don't know what will be, but I am in G-d's hands. This is a process that for whatever reason I must go through. And with G-d's help, I will get through it.

When in an Ayin state, it is not the time to be changing belief systems, or making important life choices. The ground you are standing on is too unstable for you to be able to think clearly. It would be sad - no, it would be tragic - if in your frustration you made choices that you will later regret, but not be able to reverse.

I offer no solutions to your predicament. But I offer you one piece of advice. Just hold on to G-d, the one thing that even in your nothingness you haven't lost. You will get through this black hole and your life will be reborn. The seed is planted. Have faith, and your new tomorrow will blossom soon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Ethics of Reproductive Technologies | Lesson 4

Join us for Lesson Four: New Beginnings

Dear Student,

Most people look forward to marrying and becoming parents at some stage in their adult lives. The difficulties in finding a suitable spouse are well known. However, many people are unaware of the difficulties that can dog the attempt to have children.

Up to fifteen per cent of couples experience infertility. Modern technological advances provide new hope for these couples, who in a previous era might have been relegated to life-long childlessness. Yet these new procedures present many ethical dilemmas as well.

In our lesson, we focus on artificial insemination and the challenges it creates, as well as how modern rabbinic authorities have endeavored to find workable solutions.

We also examine traditional Jewish perspectives toward childbearing and childlessness, as well as words of support for those traversing this difficult journey.

Looking forward to seeing you next week.

Review of Lesson Three

Thank you for joining us for Lesson Three of Medicine and Morals: Rolling the Dice. The following is a brief summary of what we learned:

There are two distinct states in life, and they generate very different views. When one is healthy, life feels like it stretches on indefinitely. We term this state chayei olam, literally, eternal life. But when debilitating illness strikes, life can suddenly begin to feel very tenuous. We term this state chayei sha’ah, literally, life of a moment. When one is in the state of chayei sha’ah, one is sometimes willing to take chances that would normally be considered outrageous for the opportunity to achieve a possible recovery to full health. Is one allowed to undergo such risk, jeopardizing the limited time one has left?

We learned the passage in the Talmud which rules that a terminally ill patient may risk their chayei sha’ah in the hopes of achieving a normal life. This is based on the incident related in the Bible where a group of famished lepers surrendered to an occupying force in the hope of receiving food, despite the possibility of being put to death as a result. This is the precedent which allows one to undergo a risky procedure if terminally ill. As long as death is imminent and inevitable without intervention, and a complete reprieve from death is possible, one may undertake the risk.

We looked at some important qualifications on the permissibility of pursuing risky treatments. According to many opinions, chayei sha’ah is defined as a state in which one has no more than twelve months to live, given the severity of the condition. There are different opinions as to how much risk one may undergo. The most stringent opinion is that it is only permitted to take risks if the chances of cure are even or better; the most lenient opinion allows even treatments with a remote chance of success so long as doctors believe that a cure is possible. To be considered cured, one must not be restored to full health, but simply no longer be at risk of imminent death from the dangerous condition.

We also considered the permissibility of experimental procedures when it is unknown whether they can be of any help to the patient and in which there is a lack of data that can allow us to assess the degree of risk or the effectiveness of the treatment. While some authorities only endorse treatments that have some track record of success, others permit experimental medicine even for a remote chance that it will save the patient’s life, seeing this as not significantly different from the case of risky treatments. Furthermore, so long as the procedure is halachically sanctioned, a parent or guardian may authorize the procedure for a patient incapable of doing so.

One is never obligated to undergo risky or experimental treatments. This is a decision that people must make for themselves, based on their own willingness to live with uncertainty.

Finally, we noted the importance of making sure that every moment of life is properly valued. We pointed out the important Jewish ethic of visiting the sick and offering comfort to the dying, making every moment of their life as meaningful as possible.

We look forward to seeing you next week for Lesson Four of Medicine and Morals, in which we examine the Jewish ethical perspective on infertility treatments.

See you then!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Canadian physicians can get CME credit

Below is a written confirmation from the Royal College to certify that Canadian physicians can get credit for attending MM. This JLI course was approved by SUNY Downstate for its enduring material (30 hours) and not for class time (9 hours). In Canada, there is currently no such thing as credit for 'enduring material', instead physicians in Canada will get a max of 30 MOC Section 1 credit for the full program (live discussion - lead by you, the discussion leader; pre-event reading - the remaining additional reading that is included in the student textbook; and the exam).

Here it is in the words of Kimberley Ross of the RCPSC:
"It is not necessary to have the event reviewed with an Accredited CPD Provider since this activity meets our guidelines for recognition: 1) it was co-developed with a physician organization and 2) has been assigned AMA PRA Category 1 credits™. I was recommending that accreditation applies to the entire process from the pre event preparation to the full day interactive event and the exam with a maximum of 30 hours assigned for the activity. Canadian physicians can then choose to record the actual number of hours they spent on this group learning activity under Section 1 of the Maintenance of Certification program. It is not the enduring materials that are eligible for accreditation but the full program."

Join us for Lesson Three: Rolling The Dice

Dear Student,

The history of medicine is filled with tales of quacks who had nothing to sell but hype and hope. People who are desperate enough figure they have nothing to lose, and are often willing to try almost anything.

But in fact, they do have something to lose. Often, they lose the chance to find closure, to make amends, to tie up loose ends, to die on their own terms. And so risky and experimental treatments need to be governed by certain rules.

What does Judaism have to say about risky and experimental treatments? When are they justified? When are they simply irresponsible?

Join us for Lesson Three of Medicine and Morals as we study the ethics of rolling the dice on life.

Review of Lesson Two

Dear Student,

Thank you for joining us for Lesson Two of our Medicine and Morals course. The following is a brief summary of what we learned:

With the sharp rise in demand for organ transplants, medical practitioners have in recent years sought to develop creative ways to respond to the growing need. This lesson explores how Jewish medical ethics has grappled with these new challenges.

The Torah accords great respect to the deceased body. There are several halachic principles that would seem to preclude organ donation, such as the obligation to bury a body as soon as possible after death, the prohibition against desecrating the body, and the prohibition against benefiting from any part of the body. These laws would seem to preclude the possibility of organ donation from a cadaver.

However, the Torah obligation to preserve a life that is at stake, piku’ach nefesh, might trump these principles. We presented three different views regarding cadaveric organ donation. Some forbid it, arguing that once a person is deceased, the obligation to perform the mitzvah of piku’ach nefesh is no longer relevant. Others say that to the contrary, the obligation to perform piku’ach nefesh means we may harvest organs even without the consent of the deceased. A third opinion that we cited considers cadaveric donation praiseworthy, though not obligatory.

There is halachic debate as well regarding the issue of harvesting organs from people who are brain-dead. Judaism strenuously opposes any action that would hasten the death of a dying person. Because there is some doubt regarding whether brain death is to be considered true death, most halachic decisors oppose heartbeating donation.

What about the live organ donation? Would we be obligated to donate a kidney to save a life? We examined two verses that are the source for the obligation to expend money as well as exert personal effort to save another’s life. Yet one cannot be obligated to undergo risk or to sacrifice a limb in order to save a life. Should a person wish to undergo a risky procedure to donate an organ, some authorities permit this, while others forbid it. If, however, donation is not risky, all agree that it is laudable and praiseworthy to donate an organ.

We look forward to seeing you next week, for Lesson Three of Medicine and Morals when we will discuss the ethics of risky and experimental treatments.

Join us for Lesson Two: Flesh of My Flesh

Dear Student,

You’ve seen the ads in the paper, of young mothers and loving fathers, begging for a chance at life. And you’ve heard the testimonials of people who, out of the goodness of their heart, chose to donate a kidney to a perfect stranger.  Perhaps you even know an organ donor or organ recipient. 

And yet the demand is much greater than the supply. In 2009, over 100,000 people in the U.S. were waiting for an organ transplant. Yet less than a third of them received the much-needed organ.  

What are the ethics of organ donation? Are there ways to increase the number of organs available for transplant? Is it ever right to compel people to donate organs? 

Join us this week for Lesson Two of Medicine and Morals: Flesh of My Flesh, as we explore this timely issue together.

Location change for Wednesday morning class

Due to a time conflict with another Chabad program, our Wednesday morning JLI class will no longer be taking place at the Chabad Torah Centre. Instead, it will be held, G-d willing, at Susan Holt's house at 419 Hosmer Boulevard, on Wednesday mornings from 10:00am until 11:30am.

Thank you for your understanding and I look forward to seeing you there tomorrow morning.

Organ Donation & Jewish Law | Lesson 2

Friday, October 29, 2010

Combining Opposites: Proud & Humble

The Truth About the Tooth Fairy. By Rabbi Moss.

Question of the Week:
My daughter just lost her first tooth, so I need to know: do Jews believe in the Tooth Fairy? It seems wrong to lie to kids and pretend a fairy gave them money for their tooth. Should I just be up front and give her the money myself instead of creating false beliefs?

This is certainly not a Jewish thing. But I wouldn't call it a lie. It's more like a childish game of imagination. I doubt many kids have been damaged by the discovery that there is no fairy sneaking into their bedrooms at night. And they probably think that it's their parents who are being duped as they pocket the cash.

But there is a potential danger to the Tooth Fairy myth. It rewards children for doing nothing. Losing a tooth is a natural process that requires no effort on the part of the child. They have achieved nothing more than a bit of wobbling, and then you pay them for it. To reward a child for something that will happen anyway is a waste of the incentive power of money.

Even worse, it promotes the dangerous belief that you can get money for nothing. That is far more harmful for a child's future than believing in the Tooth Fairy. I have yet to meet an adult that still thinks fairies put money under pillows, but I certainly know some who still think the world owes them a free ride.

Better reward children for good behaviour, and teach them that hard work pays. When a child does something unnatural and difficult, like sharing their favourite toys even when they don't want to or cleaning up after themselves without being told, that warrants a little deposit under the pillow.

And if you want to capture their imagination, tell them some authentic Jewish wisdom: For every good deed you do, an angel is created to protect you. And every time you hold back from doing the wrong thing, G-d's light shines on you.

It's easy to lose a tooth. It's much harder to lose a bad habit. But good deeds create good energy. And self-control makes you stronger. That's no fairy tale.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Clinically dead woman wakes up in hospital

Brain-dead Wash. woman comes back to life

The Power of Thought by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
My friend who is not Jewish asked me what makes kosher wine different to other wine. I didn't know what to say. How would you respond to him without getting into all the technicalities?

The Test of a Person's Inside

JLI Opens Fall Semester this Week, Over 14k Students

This week, the Chabad Jewish Learning Institute fall semester will open in over three hundred locations worldwide educating more then fourteen thousand students.

The new six-week course titled “medicine and morals”, will highlight “the Jewish respond to life’s tough decisions”. It will also explore what the Torah and Talmud have to say about difficult medical decisions. What's right? What's wrong? When should we turn to G-d? When do we edge too close to playing G-d? Case histories will shed light in what will be a “remarkable classroom experience”.

In preparation for the new course JLI has sent out a video promo designed to capture one’s imagination in deciding the right course of action in life’s tough decisions.

Thank you for joining us for Lesson One

Thank you for joining us for Lesson One of Medicine and Morals: Choosing Life. The central theme of our lesson was the nature of our obligation to seek healing. To what degree are we obligated to preserve our own health, and what discretion do we have in regards to our decisions regarding medical care?

We began by considering the ethical foundation of seeking medical care. Unlike some other faith traditions that have seen the pursuit of medical care as interference with G-d’s plan, Judaism sees the pursuit of medical care as fully consonant with our faith in G-d. As humans, we are empowered by G-d to partner with Him in perfecting an imperfect world. Thus, intervening with nature to heal the sick is no different than fertilizing soil or planting a field. Medical intervention is wholly compatible with our belief that G-d is the true healer, and while prayer and spiritual pursuits are appropriate and important responses to illness, they in no way preclude the responsibility to seek appropriate medical care.

When a patient is terminally ill, there is an obligation to seek out treatment that is successful more than 50% of the time, in spite of the fact that that the treatment may not always be successful and may involve certain risks.

Patients, however, sometimes refuse to undergo treatment. A major underpinning of secular medical ethics is the right of autonomy, and so long as patients clearly understand the implications of their choices, patients may not be compelled to undergo treatment. Their life is considered their own business, and they may not be pressured into following the doctor’s recommendation, no matter how ill-advised the doctors find their choices.

Practically speaking, Jewish law rarely allows people to compel others to accept treatment. It allows forcible intervention only if the patient is critically ill, the treatment is accepted by all doctors at that location as proven to cure and is not risky, persuasion is impossible, and the use of coercion will not itself precipitate death. Yet unlike the secular position, Judaism is not neutral to the choice of patients, and even when coercion may not be applicable there may be an obligation to seek out available medical care.

Looking forward to seeing you next week, when we will discuss the ethics of organ transplant.

Welcome to Medicine and Morals

Dear Student,

Welcome to Medicine and Morals, in which we will have the opportunity to explore contemporary medical dilemmas from the perspective of Jewish ethics. The paternalistic medicine of yesteryear is gone, and a foundation of modern medicine is patient autonomy, the right to choose one's treatment or no treatment at all. But what happens when a patient makes bad choices? Does a patient have the right to ignore medical advice? And are we ethically bound to allow the patient to make unwise decisions?

One of the most beloved of American poets, Robert Frost, describes the capricious nature of choice:

The Road Not Taken
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

The took the other, just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leave no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--Robert Frost

Judaism has a somewhat different view of how to make decisions while standing at the crossroads:

“I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. You shall choose life” (Deuteronomy 30:19).

If to be human is to have choice, to be moral is to make the right choice. And Judaism provides us with guidelines about how to choose wisely.

Lesson One of Medicine and Morals is entitled, “Choosing Life,” and examines a case study in which a young girl decides that she would rather die than undergo the transplant that doctors say is needed to save her life. Is the decision hers to make? Is she free to choose death? Can we—must we—intervene on her behalf?

Looking forward to discussing this and more this week when we meet at the Chabad Torah Centre.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CME Credits in Canada

The credits that we have are continuing education credits for professionals who are already practicing medicine, not credits for college students.

A few weeks ago I was in touch with the RCPSC and received the following answer as to whether doctors in Canada can use AMA credits for relicensing:

Being that SUNY Downstate Medical Center is a joint-sponsor of our program, is a physicians organization (as defined by the Royal College) and is accredited by the ACCME, Canadian physicians attending Medicine and Morals may record MOC Section 1 credits. This applies to all provinces in Canada and there is no need to have this program reviewed for accreditation by one of the Royal CollegeAccredited CPD Providers.

I am in touch with the Royal College about how to report credits. I will update you as soon as I hear back from them.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Story

Every person has a story. In fact, every person is a story.
Our stories are never-ending;
they are as large as life, and as circular as time itself.

Each of our stories overlap and interconnect,
- even with other people’s stories -
growing in strength, import and character.

When we listen to stories we are empowered.
Stories provoke us to look inward,
revisiting our lives’ twists and turns,
the decisions we’ve made and those that we haven’t.

Stories provoke us to look outward,
recognizing and appreciating how stories
are threads joining us to a communal fabric,
connecting us to others and to the broader world.
And ultimately, back to ourselves.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Should We Chop Fingers Off? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
We had a baby boy and we are very excited. But we are still undecided about the Bris. I have issues with it. I am aware of the spiritual significance of the circumcision, but I have much more practical concerns:

1) Is it not barbaric to put my baby through the pain of a medically unnecessary operation?

2) He was born uncircumcised, why should I mess with his natural state?

3) My son has no say in this, and can never reverse it. Shouldn't I let him choose later on in life if he wants this done to him?

Do you have any rational answers?

Imagine the following scenario. Your baby is born, healthy and well. But there's something unusual. He has six fingers on each hand. An extra little growth protrudes right next to each pinkie.

Bucking The Trend; Lubavitch e*Torah

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Shpy in the NY Times!

For a quarter century, Jewish children have hungrily followed the kooky adventures of the Shpy, the adventurous hero of The Moshiach Times, a family-friendly magazine that is published six times a year in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn. (Think Highlights, but Jewish.)

With a closet full of disguises and more gadgets than 007, the Shpy volunteers his services when innocent people or ancient traditions are imperiled. He escapes from a giant Mixmaster when investigating a case of stolen hamantaschen, and thwarts a mysterious bee infestation that nearly spoils the fall holiday of Sukkot. In one installment, he invents a repellent to keep the sinister Yetzer Hora at bay, complete with a catchy slogan: “Let us Shpray.” (The softening of the S, when the Shpy shpeaks, so to speak, is meant to evoke Humphrey Bogart.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

CME Accreditation for Medicine and Morals

As previously reported, our upcoming fall course, Medicine and Morals, has been approved by the American Medical Association for up to 30 AMA PRA Category 1 credits. Upon attending your JLI classes, doctors can earn credits toward their license renewal. These credits are awarded on a national basis and are therefore equally accepted in all 50 states.

In order to qualify for the credits the doctors will take an (easy) online test at the end of the course, for which they will be charged a $60.00 processing fee.

To assist doctors in passing the test, JLI's Flagship Department will be releasing a review sheet at the end of the course for them to refer to. If you do not qualify with their first attempt, you will be able to retake the test as many times as they wish.

What to expect at Chabad...


We're going away this weekend...please join us!

Is your life sometimes like taking a taking a coffee to go, always rushing without time to slowdown and enjoy? Indulge your body and soul with the finest of Jewish learning and recreation at the Shabbat Weekend Retreat this weekend.

The retreat features first class accommodations and exquisite Kosher cuisine; a synergy conducive to exploring tradition and interpersonal relationships with master scholars and teachers.

Please visit for more information.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where in the world is Chabad dancing?

Have You Seen a Soul Dance? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
My kids say that it is boring to be Jewish. They went crazy after hours in shul on Yom Kippur and say they don't want to go back next year. We told them that we only go once a year, and it is important. How can I inspire them to go to shul again?

Of all the days on the Jewish calendar, it seems the most unlikely pick. The service is at least ten times longer than usual - it takes all day. The atmosphere is far more serious and sombre than ever - we spend the whole time confessing our sins and begging for forgiveness. And the food is the worst served at any Jewish gathering - none.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Portugal to get Full Time Chabad Representatives

The only country in Europe still without its own Chabad representatives, Portugal will soon be welcoming a new addition to its 300-member Jewish community. 

Rabbi Eli and Raizel Rosenfeld of Brooklyn, will be moving to Lisbon after the holidays, where they will settle with their two small children, and work to complement the achievements of Lisbon’s proud Jewish community. 

Interview with Mr. Efraim Ilin; Israeli Billionare Inspired by the Rebbe

The Tefillin Booth

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Can You Take a Joke? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
My wife has no sense of humour. She says I make fun of her in public (and she's always happy to tell me just how bad I am - even in public). Shouldn't she be able to take a joke?

Jokes are serious. The line between a friendly jibe and a humiliating stab is often a fine one. You have to question whether the laugh you may get is worth the pain you may inflict. But between husband and wife, humiliation is simply criminal. It goes against everything that a marriage is supposed to be: an exclusive oneness.

In the Jewish wedding ceremony, after standing under the Chuppa, the bride and groom are taken to a private room, known as the Yichud room. Yichud means oneness and exclusivity. By entering this room, a secluded place where no one is present but the couple, they create a sacred space that is theirs and theirs alone. 

The newlyweds leave the Yichud room after a few minutes, but in a way they should never leave it. The privacy and oneness of the Yichud room must be taken with them in their marriage. The relationship between husband and wife is a sacred and secluded place, and should stay that way. Any word or action that jeopardises the privacy and unity of a marriage must be erased from our repertoire.

When you make fun of your wife in front of your friends, you have momentarily stepped out of the Yichud room. You have abandoned your soul-partner, leaving her alone and isolated just for a few cheap laughs. To make a joke is fine, but never at the expense of your oneness.

When your wife publicly criticises you, she has allowed strangers into the Yichud room. She is inviting others into a moment that should only be between the two of you. There is a time and a place for criticism in a relationship, but not in the presence of others.

These mistakes are so common that to many they have become acceptable. But it is these little things that can erode a good marriage. For a relationship to thrive it must always remain an exclusive oneness. Once you get comfortable in the Yichud room, you'll never want to leave.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Israel on the Brink of War

The strategic and spiritual fronts that preceded the Yom Kippur War

Moishy's Nanny Gets Citizenship

"The love I give to Rabbi Gabi and Ima Rivky, I give to all of Israel," Sandra Samuel, Moishy Holtzberg's nanny said at her citizenship ceremony Monday.

Almost two years after the terror attack in Mumbai, when Rabbi Gavriel and Rivky Holtzberg hy"d were brutally murdered at their Chabad center, Israel's Minister of Interior Eli Yishai granted Israeli citizenship status to Sandra Samuel, which will enable her to remain in Israel.

Explosive Thrown Into Shul

An explosive device was thrown at a synagogue in Kyrgyzstan over Rosh Hashana. No casualties were reported.

Radio Free Europe
A nail-packed explosive device blew up on the grounds of a synagogue in central Bishkek about an hour before the start of Rosh Hashanah services Thursday evening, according to local press reports.

Lubavs, Muslims Side by Side

Members of a Chabad Shul and a Muslim congregation, who pray in the same building in the Bronx, are working hard to get along.

NY 1
Despite all of the fierce fighting and debate over the proposed Islamic cultural center near the World Trade Center site, religious leaders in one Bronx community say they are praying and working hard to get along, all under one roof. NY1's Dean Meminger filed the following report.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sunday, September 5, 2010

5 Days in Heaven on Earth - The 5th

An International Revolution in Adult Jewish Education

With over 300 chapters worldwide, the Chabad Jewish Learning Institute is an international revolution in adult Jewish education. 

Professional and creative, informative and exciting… with a new six-week course each season, JLI brings a fresh outlook to the entire spectrum of Jewish life.

Each week, our stimulating classes will intrigue and inspire you with vibrant presentations of Jewish thought, tradition, and the mystical dimension.

JLI’s unique blend of timeless wisdom and contemporary perspectives helps students of all backgrounds grow in the precious essentials of Jewish literacy, as they gain priceless insight into the most important personal, community and global issues of our time.

Come join a JLI course, a learning experience...that lasts a lifetime! Make it your New Years Resolution.

New Kosher Discovery Community Board

Check out our new Kosher Discovery Community Board.

Here you'll find the very latest in local kosher findings. Find out where to buy kosher products right here in Winnipeg! Discover Kosher. For the community, by the community.

New JLI Infomercial Teaser

Friday, September 3, 2010 Exclusive: Paula Abdul Lights Shabbat Candles!

Lessons from an Lapsed Skydiver; by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
I jumped out of a plane last week. I won't do it again. After free falling for a while (which was amazing) I tried to release my parachute. Nothing happened. I tried again. Nothing happened. So here I was hurtling to the ground without a parachute. I thought this was it. Thank G-d the instructor had a safety parachute, which did work. We landed safely. My question: is G-d trying to tell me something?

People tend to ask the question "Why me?" only when bad things happen. After suffering a loss or experiencing failure, we wonder what we did to deserve it. But we should be asking this question not just when things seem to go wrong but when things go right too. You need to ask this of yourself: I came to the brink of death, and I survived. Why me?

Freedom to Choose; Weekly e*Torah by Rabbi Avrohom Altein

Medicine and Morals: Your Jewish Guide Through Life's Tough Decisions