Tag Archives: Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky

Op-ed: Rosh Hashanah — more than just a new year

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Throughout the year, the Jewish calendar is filled with holidays commemorating key historic milestones. Passover recalls our flight from Egypt; Shavuot, receiving the Torah on Mount Sinai; Purim, our deliverance from the threat of annihilation. As Rosh Hashanah approaches, one might wonder, what is happening, what key event in Jewish history do the High Holidays celebrate?

The Talmud tells us that Rosh Hashanah is not the anniversary of the creation of the world, it is the anniversary of the sixth day of creation, the day G-d created Adam. Rosh Hashanah thus does not actually celebrate the creation of the physical world, rather it celebrates the creation of humankind.

Mystical thought explains that this is a great lesson to us. The date of the Jewish New Year emphasizes the role of people rather than the world in general. G-d did not create the world to have static and lifeless planetary matter. He wanted a dynamic, changeable environment whose material crassness could be transformed into a dwelling place for Him. This is achieved by the actions, thoughts and words of people. Our divine mission is to change the world for good, and make it into a place where G-d and G-dliness is welcome.

Furthermore, our sages teach us that the reason Adam was created a single being (unlike other species which were created in large numbers) is to demonstrate how even one person is as valuable to G-d as the whole world. Every single individual has the capacity to attain the highest degree of fulfillment for his/herself and the rest of the world.

When Rosh Hashanah arrives, we commit ourselves to a more intense bond with G-d, and to a more meaningful and deeper relationship with Him. We don’t need a specific historic event to be the focus of Rosh Hashanah, for the holiday commemorates the very purpose of our being.

On Thursday, Jews the world over will be “convening” in our own special way to nominate G-d for another yearlong term. With simple acts of devotion, goodness and kindness, and belief in His ultimate rule, we issue our vote of confidence in the Creator and in return receive another year of life, blessings and the opportunity to draw ever closer to Him.

This year especially, this message resonates loud and clear.

With the world facing the clear and present threat of ISIS and other forms of terror, we realize the urgent need to transform this world into the place G-d intended it to be — a place of goodness, kindness and decency.

May we all merit to be written and sealed in the Book of Life for a happy, healthy and meaningful 5775.


FAA prohibits flights to Israel airport for 24 hours

| lguerre@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/File photo

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) told U.S. carriers on Tuesday not to fly to or from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, Israel, following a rocket strike that landed just one mile from the airport.

The prohibition, which applies to U.S. carriers and does not include foreign operators, ends at 12:15 p.m. on Wednesday.

United Airlines, US Airways and Delta reportedly suspended flights to Tel Aviv. Delta had a Tel Aviv-bound Boeing 747 from JFK carrying 290 people in the air Tuesday afternoon, but rerouted it to Paris.

The notice came at a time when airlines are more sensitive flying over troubled areas, after 298 people were killed when a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 was downed over Ukraine last week.

Israelis have been fighting Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip since July 8, and the strike was the closest to the airport since the fighting began, according to the New York Daily News.

However, Israel’s Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz said on Tuesday that the flight cancellations should be reversed, because it gave a victory to terrorism, according to published reports. A local leader agreed.

“I understand the safety concerns of the airlines,” said Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky of Chabad of Northeast Queens in Bayside.  “Essentially this is what the terrorists want. They want to isolate Israel and create disruptions to people’s normal lives.”

The FAA said it will continue to monitor the situation and will update the airlines with further instructions.



Op-Ed: The meaning behind Chanukah

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com


Chanukah — the eight-day festival of light that begins on the eve of the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev — celebrates the triumph of light over darkness, of purity over adulteration, of spirituality over materiality.

More than 21 centuries ago, the Holy Land was ruled by the Seleucids (Syrian-Greeks), who sought to forcefully Hellenize the people of Israel. Against all odds, a small band of faithful Jews defeated one of the mightiest armies on earth, drove the Greeks from the land, reclaimed the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and rededicated it to the service of G-d.

When they sought to light the temple’s menorah (the seven branched candelabrum), they found only a single cruse of olive oil that had escaped contamination by the Greeks; miraculously, the one-day supply burned for eight days, until new oil could be prepared under conditions of ritual purity.

To commemorate and publicize these miracles, the sages instituted the festival of Chanukah. At the heart of the festival is the nightly menorah (candelabrum) lighting: a single flame on the first night, two on the second evening, and so on till the eighth night of Chanukah, when all eight lights are kindled.

The deeper message of the festival is that the oil represents the soul – the spark of G-d within us. Our enemies strive to defeat us any which way possible, through physical annihilation and spiritual assimilation. The miracle of Chanukah teaches us that ultimately we shall overcome. The soul can never be put down and defeated, and regardless of how bleak the situation may appear, light will ultimately overpower darkness.

On Chanukah we also add the Hallel and Al HaNissim in our daily prayers to offer praise and thanksgiving to G-d for “delivering the strong into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few… the wicked into the hands of the righteous.”

Chanukah customs include eating foods fried in oil — latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiot (doughnuts); playing with the dreidel (a spinning top on which are inscribed the Hebrew letters nun, gimmel, hei and shin, an acronym for Nes Gadol Hayah Sham, “a great miracle happened there”); and the giving of Chanukah gelt, gifts of money, to children.

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky is the Director of the Chabad of Northeast Queens

Op Ed: The Myth of Relaxation

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

By Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky

A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed the results of a fascinating study. People who work under high pressure conditions will often take time off to get away from it all, relax and “decompress.” This, common wisdom assumes, is the way to alleviate the accumulative effects of stress. Alas, the study’s findings indicate that a cycle of intense stress followed by utter relaxation does nothing to counter the deleterious physical and mental health effects of chronic stress. The only thing that really helps is learning to respond in effective ways to stress-inducing situations as they arise. Relaxation is not what heals stress, but reshaping our day-to-day behavior in a way that makes for a less stressful life.

Passover is a celebration of our capacity to attain freedom in “every generation” Yes – even in 2012, to leave whichever “Egypt” our souls languish in. Yet, when we think of freedom, we usually think in terms of being free of care, worry and the burdens of life — in other words, freedom equals “relaxation”. Passover seems to contradict this with its laws on banishing every crumb of leaven from every nook and cranny of our home, with the requirement to eat precise amounts of Matzah and drink a certain measure of wine with each of the “four cups”. Religiously speaking, without eating and drinking the specified amounts, we have not really celebrated the Seder.

Is this focus on detail, freedom? Indeed, there is no other true freedom. We are physical beings living in a world of myriad details and minutia. If we say, “I can only spread my wings and feel uplifted when I transcend the body, the Earth and all its petty details,” we are basically saying that God cannot be felt here in our world. In this model, God is imprisoned in the sublime, and we are imprisoned in the petty. Escaping the petty will not help either — sooner or later we will need to return from the vacation, and then we are back to square one.

Passover responds by telling us that if we truly want our spirits to soar, we must find God in the details of the world we live in, in the same way that stress is not eliminated by escaping our life-frameworks, but by remaining within them and transforming them from within. At the Passover Seder, the ordinary act of eating embodies the will of the infinite, packaged in a few mouthfuls. God is not imprisoned, and neither are we. God can be wherever God chooses to be, even in the act of eating a piece of Matzah or the sounds of a small child asking the Four Questions. And we, too, are set free, as we discover the transcendent in the stuff of everyday life.

Wishing you a holiday of true freedom!

Rabbi Yossi Blesofsky is the Director of the Chabad of Northeast Queens