Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New JLI Channel Launched on Torah

Review of Lesson One (Beyond Never Again)

Thank you for joining us for the first lesson of “Beyond Never Again: How the Holocaust Speaks to Us Today.” We began our discussion on the topic of suffering, contextualizing the Holocaust. Human beings in the twenty-first century are not the first to notice that it is often the righteous who suffer and the wicked who prosper. Jews have been questioning this fact for more than 3,000 years.

The great Jewish leaders – Moses and Job – too asked this question, and questioning suffering should not be condemned as a sign of lack of faith. Furthermore, it is ultimately the believer in G-d who questions suffering. To the non-believer, the world is a jungle, void of accountability and responsibility.

We considered the three axioms that we accept about the nature of G-d: that He is omniscient, omnipotent, and benevolent. From a philosophical perspective, the problem of suffering only emerges when we accept these three principles as absolute. It is only when we accept these three principles that we can be troubled by the contradiction between what we expect the world to look like and the real suffering that exists in our world.

The Jewish response to suffering divides the issues into two parts: the suffering of others must not be viewed the same way as one might view his or her own experiences. While our faith may allow us to accept our own suffering without complaint, we can never be complacent about the suffering of others.

Thus, we must resist the tendency to embrace easy answers. It is necessary that we remain troubled by the question of suffering, for if we could understand and accept it, we would be less sensitive to our responsibility to do everything in our power to end it.

The ultimate answer to the question concerning the suffering around us is that no answer is acceptable. We do not seek to rationalize the pain of others, but to alleviate it.

Judaism does not glorify suffering. It is a temporary aberration with which we should never make peace. Jewish tradition firmly believes in a time when suffering will end, and “G-d will wipe the tears off every face.”

I hope to see you next week at the Chabad Torah Centre for our second lesson, “The Voice of Your Brother’s Blood Cries Out: How the Holocaust Impacts Us as Jews.”

Timetable for JLI Semesters 5771

JLI Semesters 5771




Begins the week of
16 Cheshvan/Oct. 24
through the week of
21 Kislev/Nov. 28

Medical Ethics

Rabbi Yehuda Pink

Begins the week of
2 Adar I/Feb. 6
through the week of
7 Adar II/Mar. 13

Toward a Meaningful Life

Rabbi Simon Jacobson

Begins the week of
4 Iyar/May 8
through the week of
10 Sivan/June 12

The Mystery of Shabbat

Rabbi Zalman Abraham

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Can the Holocaust happen now?

It does. Every minute. Perhaps not to me. Or., perhaps to me just not on the same scale.

The Holocaust was really one life meeting tragedy - six million times.

Tragedy happens. Lets face it.

Join me as I present a course by the JLI, entitled "Beyond Never Again" examining how Judaism teaches us to handle tragedy, using the lens of the Holocaust.

Register now. Click here.

Is the Holocaust no more than a depressing story?

In the darkest of night the candle burns the brightest.
It is the frigid winter storm that makes the hearth at home warmer and more inviting.
Is is the fire of the hottest furnace that forges the strongest steel.

Hidden in the unthinkable atrocity of the holocaust, are stories of people who met it with dignity, faith and unshakable hope. They did more than just survive, and we shall not rest saying "never again".

The JLI presents a six week course entitled "Beyond Never Again". I will be teaching this class at the Chabad Torah Centre starting Tuesday, April 27 at 7:30 p.m.

"Beyond Never Again" is the story of hope, character, and spirituality amidst the worst depravity in our memory. It is about the most important form of resistance - resistance of the spirit.

We can all use some hope, faith, and sprirtual resistance, I think we can find it in the holocaust.

Register now.

Beyond Never Again: Voices of the Past with Professor Elie Wiesel

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Why Don't We Put Flowers on a Grave? by Rabbi Moss

Question of the Week:
I am going to visit my grandmother's grave, and was planning to buy a bunch of her favourite flowers. But I have noticed that Jewish graves don't have bouquets, only stones laid on them. Is there anything wrong with placing flowers on a grave?

The custom to place a stone on a grave is an ancient one. By doing so we are symbolically adding to the gravestone, building up the monument that honours the departed. Placing flowers on a grave is not our custom.

Flowers wither and die. Stones remain unchanged. While flowers are a beautiful gift to the living, they mean nothing to the dead. In death, the body which is ephemeral and temporary is gone, and all that remains is that eternal part of the person, their soul. The body, like a flower, blossoms and then fades away, but the soul, like a solid stone, lives on forever.

In the world of truth, the place we all go after life on earth, what counts is the lasting impact we had on the world. It is the achievements of the soul, not of the body, that remain beyond the grave. The money we make, the holidays we go on, the food we eat and the games we play - these are all flowers that die along with us. But the good deeds we do, the love we show to others, the light we bring to the world, these are eternal stones that never die.

If you want to honour your grandmother, take the money you would have spent on flowers for her and give it to charity in her memory. And take a modest stone that cost you nothing, and place it on her grave, to tell her that though she is gone, the impact she had on you is everlasting.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Voices of the Past with Professor Elie Wiesel

Beyond Never Again: Voices of the Past with Professor Elie Wiesel from on Vimeo.

This is not a course about the past...

The Holocaust, more than any other event in recent history, forces us to grapple with the existence of evil and suffering. It challenges us to find faith and optimism in the face of devastation and despair. And it humbles us as we encounter heroes of the spirit who fought for truth and decency in the darkest of times.

As Jews living in the 21st century, we can sometimes feel detached from the Holocaust and prefer to focus on a bright future than dwell on past atrocities. Why focus on tragedy when there is so much positivity to celebrate?

But what is it deterring us from focusing on issues of suffering? Are we too disturbed by questions of injustice, of pain, of natural disasters, of the unfairness of certain individuals dominating and terrorizing the lives of others? Are we afraid to face reality? Is it because we have deep-rooted questions that remain unanswered?

Join the Chabad Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) for a six-week course entitled “Beyond Never Again: How the Holocaust Speaks to Us Today.” It is NOT a course about history, genocide, or the many horrors and atrocities of the Holocaust. It is an uplifting course about optimism, and maintaining hope through difficult times. It is a course about discovery, about uncovering the transcendent Jewish spirit that the Nazis, try as they did, were unable to break. It is a course full of uplifting positivity and optimism for the contemporary-minded Jew.

Life inevitably presents us with real challenges, some of which may seem insurmountable. In the course, we will explore the ways in which the Holocaust continues to affect our daily life interactions and colors what it means to live as Jews today. Beyond Never Again, will look beyond the Holocaust, to create an atmosphere in which our deepest moral questions can be raised without fear and in real hope of finding meaningful responses.

The course is starting next week Tuesday, April 27 at the Chabad Torah Centre, so I encourage you to register today. Please visit for more information.

See you there!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The difference between Answer and Response

Answer, is academically removing a difficulty or contradiction.

Response is doing my best to right the wrong, to fixing that which is broken.

To find an Answer to something that bothers my brain I click on Google, or pull out an encyclopedia.

To find a Response to something which bothers my heart, my soul or my conscience, I must search within. I must challenge myself to do whatever I can to make things at least a little better.

If we were computers, answers would reign supreme.

But we are not machines, we are humans. There are occasions when answers fall short, when what is really being sought is a response.

If someone were to intellectually explain why the Holocaust occurred, would it bother you less that 1.5 million children were brutally murdered?

"Why do the righteous suffer?" was couched by Job not as a question requiring an answer, but as a challenge requiring a response.

A challenge to G-d and a challenge to humanity - his friends who were too quick to "understand" and even justify his suffering.

It did not require an answer - but a response.

The Holocaust is the greatest question, challenge, that humanity has ever faced. It requires a response from humanity; it demands a response from G-d.

But suffering is not limited to the Holocaust. We all know people who have suffered greatly, dare we say unfairly, in their own lives. How should we respond to that suffering?

As part of our Holocaust Awareness Initiative, I encourage you to seriously consider registering for our new JLI course - "Beyond Never Again - How the Holocaust Speaks To Us Today". Created by the Chabad Jewish Learning Institute (JLI), the world's largest network of adult Jewish education, Beyond Never Again has won support from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Yad Vashem, The Simon Wiesenthal Centre and Simon Wiesenthal himself, together with more than 100 centers and institutes devoted to studying the Holocaust around the world.

For further information, please visit