* Charles Wheelan writes in the WSJ: “10 Things Your Commencement Speaker Won’t Tell You: Your time in fraternity basements was well spent. The same goes for the time you spent playing intramural sports, working on the school newspaper or just hanging with friends. Research tells us that one of the most important causal factors associated with happiness and well-being is your meaningful connections with other human beings. Look around today. Certainly one benchmark of your postgraduation success should be how many of these people are still your close friends in 10 or 20 years.”
I was always interested in success but not always invested in making friends. So when I got sick at age 21 and was bed-ridden until 27, I was bereft when none of my friends my age gave a damn. They were all going on with their lives. I found that only people I knew who were in the second half of life were compassionate.
If you don’t want to end up like Rabbs and me, invest in friends.
* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “My insight is that the High Priest brings forgiveness to Israel through living – through a life of holiness and public service. The High Priest blesses the people and he is aware that he bears the responsibility for their behavior and is charged with being the proper role model for his fellow priests and for all of Israel generally.”
The High Priest was like a Hasidic rebbe.
* This week’s Torah portion deals with forbidden sexual relationships. I have not committed any of these sins.
Rabbi Wein writes: “The Torah pays no attention to the modern world’s “two consenting adults are allowed to do whatever they want” theory of proper human behavior.”
“Perhaps in no other area of the Torah is the contrast between the Torah’s value system and that of modern Western society revealed so clearly. The Torah recognizes no possibility for the existence of “alternate life-styles.” The ultimate question that lies behind this clash of values is that of defining what is the goal in one’s life. Is it to be pleasure and narcisstic self-satisfaction or is it to be the attainment of the goal of being kedoshim – a special, unique, spiritually developed human being?”
* Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “Somehow it is fashionable in the current day Jewish world to associate holiness and spirituality with the mystic, the supernatural, the irrational, the unknown and the not understandable. The plethora of books being written and published about Kabbalah, most of them of dubious content and scholarship, is one manifestation of this current trend. Another example of this trend is the ascent of “holy men” who dispense blessings or amulets, and their popularity amongst the masses.”
By contrast, the Torah’s teaching on holiness in the book of Leviticus are practical and prosaic. It is about self-control and following the dictates of your leaders.
Rabbi Wein writes: “The Torah defines holiness in concrete, easily understood, human terms. The definition of holiness in Jewish life is always expressed in terms of self-discipline. Self-discipline, control of behavior, speech and actions are the ingredients of holiness as the Torah sees it. Now, I will admit that this is unexciting holiness. It is much more glamorous to receive a blessing from a holy man at three AM in the morning, or to engage in meditation, transcendental or otherwise, or to dance in the aisle during a prayer service or create a more spiritual prayer service than the tired, old-fashioned traditional fashion of prayer, than to refrain from slander, sexual promiscuity or dishonest monetary behavior.”
* Just because Jews are sometimes weak and sinful does not mean that our rabbis will lower our standards. We don’t change the Torah to accommodate our own desires.