“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind” – Learning from Heavenly Messages

It was the fifth manned mission of NASA’s Apollo program. July 16, 1969 at 9:32 am EDT (13:32 UTC) at Kennedy Space Center in Merritt Island, Florida. The Saturn V rocket lifts off with Mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin. On July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC, Armstrong became the first to step onto the lunar surface. His famous words before taking a step down from the Eagle’s ladder -“That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

G-d sends us messages every day. Apparently that message – heard throughout the world on TV – was a message to us humans. What was G-d communicating to us?

A message that is as relevant then as it is today.

Each one of us has a specific purpose to accomplish in the world. The winds of mediocrity tell us – eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow you die. But the attitude is a smoke-screen to mask us from achieving our potential. Like the background music that is played in stores – to keep you in a trance to keep you in the store longer – so that you don’t notice the time passing.

The message “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.” is telling us to break out of mediocrity. Many times a day we have an opportunity to do a kindness for others. Many times we have an opportunity to do a small act of kindness. We think it is no big deal – but really it can greatly help another person or all mankind.

Take a person who imparts to a non-observant Jewish person the beauty of Shabbat by inviting them for a shabbat meal. That person thinks – ok so he had a meal by home – no big investment – I was going to prepare food for the family anyway. But it is possible that you changed the person’s life. Your small act of kindness was “one small step for man – but a giant leap for mankind.” Because you changed the life of that person. His life will not be the same for now you opened a door to help him or her develop a closer relationship with the creator of the world. He will now change his life because of a small act on your part.

Take a person who teaches another Jew Torah or a Gentile the 7 Noahide laws. We think “so he took five minutes to teach the other person a Torah lesson.” But in reality you may have saved that person’s life from the despondency of living a life void of spirituality and a relationship with the true creator of the universe – Hashem.

These are small examples. But the message is clear. One of our jobs in life is to do acts of kindness – that for us may be small – but make a great difference in other people’s lives.

Once a person fixed the collar of a person in a Yeshiva. He thought nothing of it. Many years later – the boy whose collar he fixed came up to him and thanked him. He said many years ago I felt lonely and was considering leaving the Yeshiva. But your act of kindness of fixing my collar made me reconsider – because I saw people did care about me. I wanted to say thank you.

Imagine the reward for one small act. All the years that the boy studied Torah in the Yeshiva will be attributed to the boy who did a small act. The reward for Torah study is unimaginable. He did a small step, but it had tremendous ramifications.

Two women used to collect charity for poor people in the neighborhood. They decided together that the one who would eventually die first would come back to the other one in a dream and tell them about judgement in heaven. After many years one woman passed away. She came to the other in a dream. She told her – “Judgement in Heaven is rigorous, but the reward is also tremendous. Remember once we waved at a wealthy woman to get her attention – to collect some charity. You cannot imagine what great reward we were given for that small act.”

A small act of kindness goes a long way.

Choose Life! Choose Your Manner of Uplifting or Downfall

G-d knows all. G-d runs the world Middah Keneged Middah. Meaning measure for measure. Do good – get good. Do bad – and get bad from the same source.

Thus –

It’s good to be good.

It’s bad to be bad.

Not only does a good person live a happier, more peaceful life but they do not cause their own downfall.

The detriment of sin worse than punishment – the loss of potential

In a philosophical discussion with my cousin, he asked “If you could do any sin – and not be held accountable – what would you do?” I thought about it a moment and answered “Probably nothing.” Why? There are several negative aspects of sin – One is one does bad to another or to society. Another is the punishment. But another is the bad done to oneself. If I were to chase after women, I would waste my life. Not establishing a family, not bringing up children with proper Torah values, not contributing to the building of society is not worth the temporary pleasure of transgression.”

In Torah it says – “A person only sins if a spirit of folly enters him.” Why? Because if one put serious thought before sin they would never sin. It would never make sense. The loss would always be more than the gain. Take a person who steals. His gain – the value of object stolen. The loss – the pain to the person he stole from. The fear that the police will take them to jail. If caught – the time spent in court, the time spent in jail. The loss of freedom.

Honesty is the best policy.

Punishment – from sin itself

The wicked Haman, in the Purim story – built a gallows that was 50 amot / 100 feet high – to hang  Mordechai, the Jew. What happened. Mordechai was saved. And Haman was hung with his 10 sons on the gallows he made.

In the same story – Esther, risked her life to talk with the king to save the Jewish people. Her life was also saved because Haman’s plans were foiled.

A person was depressed. they decided to focus on doing kindness with others. eventually, their care and efforts for others propelled them out of depression to a meaningful existence.

A man who had trouble marrying off his daughter – pledged to finance the wedding of a poor couple. The couple, grateful to the man, knew someone that was a fine candidate for his daughter. They eventually got married.

Do good and receive good.

G-d says – I have placed before you good and evil – life and death. Choose life.

Our job in this world is to Choose Life!

The Need to Knead – Rising to the Challenge or a Timeless Lesson from Abraham

img_0380The Torah, the Five Books of Moses, was written by G-d.

G-d’s words in the Torah are concise. Something that can be said in three words, will not be said using four. He is not redundant. Every word is calculated. If there is a seemingly extra word or phrase found in Torah, it must be teaching a lesson.

In this week’s Parasha / Weekly Torah reading, Parashat Va’yera, we find several instances of seemingly redundant words.

Avraham Avinu, the forefather of the Jewish nation was exemplary in doing kindness. His Tent was open on four sides to accomodate guests, so that they would find a door on any side they approached.

He had great desire to do kindness. So much so that on the third day of his circumcision, the most painful day, he was sitting outside his tent in the scorching heat searching for guests.

G-d was speaking with Avraham, when he saw three angels, disguised as men. His desire for doing kindness was so great that he excused himself from speaking to G-d to invite these men for a meal.

He asked his wife to knead the dough and prepare bread.

Two questions – why did he have to ask her to knead the dough? Sarah, his wife, knew how to make bread. Also Sarah had many servants, why should she knead the dough?

One answer is, making dough is the most rigorous part of making bread. Avraham wanted to teach her that if a Mitzvah comes in one’s hands, do the most difficult part.

Apparently, he was telling her for self perfection, through mitzvahs / commandments, doing the more challenging part will help a person to better themselves. It will help them become closer to G-d and they will get the greatest reward.

Because it is difficult it is not bad. One has to rise to the challenge. Life without challenge is existance. Life with overcoming challenges is living. Life can be difficult but still be good for the person.

Some shy away from doing mitzvot because they are challenging. challenge is part of the Mitzvah. Challenge helps us grow. as opposed to challenges from exercise and sport, which can make a person a stronger athelete, Challenges from the Torah make us a better person.

when we overcome we feel better about life and ourselves.

This is one explanation of the saying in Pirkei Avot “According to the pain is the reward.”