The Torah demands that we maintain a vision of a bright future even in the darkness of the present. We are the custodians of the earth, but not the outright owners, and as such, we owe it to the future inhabitants to maintain and care for what we have today.
Whether it’s the beginning of a new nation or a parent teaching a child or a reminder to ourselves about our own friends, the company you keep is who you become, for better or worse. Each of us is the village, and the village is us. How does your village help you be the best version of yourself?
When I applied to the University of Michigan for undergrad, my low test scores and relatively low GPA didn't make me optimistic about my chances. I was sure a rejection letter was heading my way, so you can imagine my surprise when the acceptance letter came in the mail. Perhaps I stood out because in presenting myself, I was - and still am - my authentic self.
Being a lifelong learner means understanding that we are never complete, that our knowledge base is never full, and that we can always open our minds and learn more. Parshat Vaetchanan reminds us that we are all simultaneously learners and seekers.
When we're young, our brains create clear categories so we can understand the world. People are either grownups or kids, they're Jewish or not. As we mature, we gain the experience to realize that the world is much more nuanced and complex.
Heat is an agent of change, whether in the physical sense of transforming a pot from dairy use to meat use, or in the figurative sense of growing and learning from our own heated emotions. Emotional “fire” can transform people mentally just as actual fire transforms things chemically.
If we’re supposed to be guided by our morals, what happens when one person’s (or community’s) morals conflict with another’s? We all have so much in common with each other, but these days we’re divided by extremes on every issue. Personally, my integrity comes from many places, but primarily from my Jewish traditions.