Dear Aish Family,
There is so much joy constantly in the air at Aish that I don’t always have a chance to mention it. I began my week with a wedding and ended it with one. Lauren Desatnick is the daughter of Lloyd and Edana Desatnick who have become dear friends and partners of Aish. Edana sits on our HR committee and has been a personal mentor of mine as she serves as a Leadership coach for so many Fortune 500 companies. When Lauren became engaged to Alex Adler she asked me to perform the wedding ceremony. I was incredibly honored.
Hailing from Michigan, currently Alex is an attorney in Manhattan and has become a good friend as well. I was moved to learn that the couple met working for AIPAC. The start of their relationship revolved around a love of Israel. As a result I wanted to do something special for their wedding.
There is a famous custom at Jewish weddings that we remember the destruction of Jerusalem by having the groom step on a glass at the end of the ceremony. There is a less well-known custom that a bit of ash is taken and put on the groom’s head where we place our tefillin. This past summer I participated in an amazing tour of the archaeological digs at the City of David just a ten minute walk from the Aish World Center. There we saw ash from the destruction of the Temple two thousand years ago. I took a napkin and wrapped some of the ash in it. I placed the holy ash in my wallet to then use at the Adler-Desatnik chuppa. It was so powerful to use that authentic ash in the ceremony for a couple whose love was built on a love of Israel. It was a statement to our enemies of 2000 years ago just how much they did not succeed.
Later in the week I received a message from one of my favorite Jews in the world, Rabbi Aryeh Royde. Rabbi Royde started the “Traveling Chasidim” after hearing many classes from our founder Rabbi Noach Weinberg about the need to take responsibility for our Jewish brothers and sisters. The Traveling Chasidim has become an international phenomenon, visiting different communities for Shabbos, where they proceed to sing and dance all weekend long. His message to me was that he was well aware of my travel schedule but if I happen to be around he was making a wedding and would love for me to attend.
It never occurred to me not to attend Rabbi Royde’s wedding. Here is a holy Jew who spends countless Shabbosim traveling around the country to spend time with Jews. How could I not be with him on this awesome day? I went to the wedding and was honored to dance with Rabbi Royde and his family. They even loaned me a streimel when I danced with him! His brother Rabbi Yisroel Royde kept introducing me to Jews at the wedding who had been inspired by the Traveling Chasidim. What a night!
With this as my background I want to highlight what I feel will be a transformative program for the Jews of New York City. We have all witnessed the colossal change in public conversation over the past few decades. Hate speech is on the rise (thank you Kayne West) and people lack the tools to speak civilly with each other. As Jews, we have had a tradition of not only watching what goes into our mouths, but what comes out as well. Speaking appropriately to one another is a major discussion in Jewish law. Not just because one is worried about being sued. It’s because it’s the right thing to do.
With Rabbi Elliot Mathias at the helm, Aish NY is spearheading a Clean Speech campaign in New York for the month of November. It will give all of us tools to improve the way we communicate with each other. I am proud that we have built a citywide coalition of many community partners from across the Jewish spectrum to support this effort.
Sign up at our website www.cleanspeech.com/nyc. We are having a kickoff concert featuring Nissim Black on November 8th, and I would love to see you there.
We must focus on the positive aspects of life. Celebrating with others is the highlight of Jewish life. So much of our world today revolves around putting down others or fighting. Jews were given the holy task to bring light into the world. Let us do this by laughing and singing together. Let us do this by loving each other. Let us do this by being careful with our words and emotions. The Almighty represents all that is good in the world. Let us use Him as our role model as we restore civility and dignity to global dialogue.