Beyond Fear & Anger; Living in Gratitude

Part Four of Contributing Editor Bob Jones’ conversation with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida.

In this forth and final part of our conversation, Rabbi Scheiner shares how simple acts of gratitude remain life’s most timeless solution to fear and anger.

Bob Jones:  Each encounter is sacred.

Rabbi Scheiner:  Exactly.  It’s like different facets of God’s image on earth.  No one person has the totality of God’s image we’re all particles so to speak.  We’re all fragments of God’s image on earth.  And until we unite with our fellow man, we can’t complete God’s image on earth.  And that idea of we’re incomplete without each other…that you complete me and I complete you… this is the greatest gift. 

One of the challenges that I think we’re facing today is we have so much abundance.  My father has a great quote he likes to say; “The only thing today’s kids are the deprived of is deprivation.” 

Morning Blessing

We have so much abundance that we start taking everything for granted. And what our daily prayers do gives us moments to reflect and to be grateful.  And Judaism does it in the most magnificent way.  I mean we don’t put a sip of water in our mouth without thanking God for the water.  We don’t put a morsel of food in our mouths without thanking God for the food.  If we sit down to a meal in Judaism and we have five different food types…we make five different blessings. 

We don’t just say, ‘God, thank you for the food.  We say, ‘Thank you for the drink.  Thank you for the fruit.  Thank you.’ 

When we get sick we could have a headache, we could have a stomachache, we could have something worse (God forbid). Suddenly we appreciate our health.  You don’t have to wait until you’re in the hospital to realize how grateful you should be that your body is healthy. 

I was with an elderly man yesterday.  He’s having shortness of breath if he walks from his couch to his kitchen he’s panting, right?  But we go through our day taking millions and millions of breaths.  We never have shortness of breath and we never stop to think about it.  The list goes on and on and on. 

And so if you are blind and one day you open your eyes and they were working you would be screaming from joy in the light.  Well, every day when you open your eyes there’s a blessing, “God, thank you very much for opening my eyes today because I don’t take for granted that I have this amazing camera in my brain that’s able to see in color.” So it’s a daily challenge because human nature is that we take things for granted. 

God, thank you very much for opening my eyes today because I don’t take for granted that I have this amazing camera in my brain that’s able to see in color.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

So instead of being angry and envious and bitter about life, and like I said, I do believe anger and fear comes from, insecurity…comes from lack of joy.  The solution is to find more joy in your life. Find things to be more grateful. Don’t be envious of someone else because look how many blessings you have in your life. 

And so I think spiritual values and teachings are essential and I think what we’re seeing today is just because the spiritual waters have receded and so all the filth that lies at the bottom of human nature, so to speak, is being revealed. Hatred has always been around. Obviously it’s human frailty that causes that, and tribalism, and then fear of the stranger. 

Bob Jones:  I was a practicing psychologist for 45 years and I have imagined that much of our anger comes from being a stranger to our own wounds which sort of goes along with what you were saying.  We are so privileged, and abundances so abundant that we never look at our own wounds. We don’t see our own woundedness, and as a result can’t identify with the wounds of the other and that’s a regrettable thing.  I think a lot anger comes from that along with all of the abuse and trauma. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  There’s a story that comes to mind. 

It was from a great Rabbi. He once looked out the window and he saw his kids playing a game and they were saying who’s taller?  So one kid stood up in a box to say I’m taller, so the other brother pushed him off the box and the Rabbi called them into his study, his two children, and he said to them, ‘Always remember, you don’t make yourself taller by knocking someone else down’. Sometimes when we feel that we have to criticize others and diminish others in order to raise ourselves up, and that never is the case.  The only way to make yourself taller is actually becoming a better person.

Sometimes we’re afraid of our shadow you know. 

When a horse goes down to the water to drink, it starts to kick up dust, right?  And why do horses do that?  They start stomping their feet and kicking off dust?  And the answer is because when the looks into the water it sees its own reflection, but it thinks there’s another horse trying to drink its water. So it starts stomping its foot to kick away to drive away the other horse. And when he kicks up dust it muddies the water and then it no longer sees the reflection of the other horse. Then it starts to drink. 

What the horse doesn’t realize is that first of all there’s no one else drinking their water. 

Second of all, that God has enough water in the world for all of the horses. 

And third of all, by kicking up the dust all that they’re doing is muddying their own waters. 

It’s a parable for human beings. Sometimes when we feel someone else is a threat to us and sometimes it’s physical threat in business. This guy is my competition. he’s going to take away my business.  Sometimes it’s a spiritual threat.  This person or this religion is going to supplant mine or whatever. 

We don’t realize that God has enough love and enough room for all of us and all of our beliefs and all of our relationships.  And there’s no one else trying to take what’s yours because everyone has their spiritual path and destiny and purpose and it’s uniquely yours. Nobody could take it away from you. No one could infringe on it, encroach on it.  And when we do what we do…like kicking up dust and muddying up the waters we’re just making our own water impure. 

So we should invite friendship, camaraderie, fellowship, brotherhood, love and realize that God put us all here in this world and he has enough room for all of our worship and we should find the bridges that connect us because what we have in common is obviously much greater than what divides us. 

Bob Jones:  Beautifully said.  Rabbi Moshe Scheiner. Thank you for your hard work.

Rabbi Scheiner:  My pleasure and I look forward to seeing the article. It’s an honor getting to know you maybe one day we’ll meet in person.  God bless you, all the best.  

Robert Kenneth Jones

ChaplainUSA Contributing Editor

Bob Jones has dedicated his life to making people whole again. His work in helping others overcome addiction and childhood abuse spans over four decades. 

Anger in America; Children Are Listening

Part Three of Contributing Editor Bob Jones’ conversation with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida.

In this third part of our conversation, Rabbi Moshe Scheiner reflects on raising children in a time of fearful expressions of anti-Semitism, armed security at places of worship, joy and the image of God

Bob Jones:  You’re the father of six children? 

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

Rabbi Scheiner:  Yeah.

Bob Jones:  How have you prepared your own kids to meet the anger, fear and hatred of anti-Semitism?

Rabbi Scheiner:  I’ve raised my kids to be very proud Jews.  The first thing is obviously never cower in the face of anti-Semitism.  My children, like myself, walk around with a yarmulke on their head. We never try to camouflage or to fit in.  We believe in the dignity of different. And we should respect every religion, every good creed, race, religion.  Because like I said, we could all learn from each other. 

Every religion, every culture, every society has wonderful positive things and we all need each other.  And so my children are ambassadors of Judaism in this world. That’s what God gave them as their role and they should wear that proudly.  Their faith in God should not be invisible. It should be visible not just in their physical appearance, but in their speech, in their thought, in their deeds and that’s what we do. 

There has to be ambassadors of God on earth, and yes people will hate you for it, and we paid a price over the millennium for being Jewish.  But, it’s a sacrifice we’re happy to make because it’s the source of the greatest blessing of our life.  And when children have confidence and belief in who they are and pride in who they are, then they have no fear of others.  And if they encounter people who are hateful…we have pity on them, we have mercy for them, and pray for them that they should be enlightened rather than be vengeful and hateful that God should enlighten their souls and their eyes to see the good.  And we always have our kids kill them with kindness. 

The greatest goal is that when we force our enemy to acknowledge, whether they verbally admit it or at least inside themselves, that ‘you know what…I hate this Jew, but I have to admit he’s a pretty good person’.  So you just do the right thing time and again, and you open their eyes through your goodness.  At the same time obviously we have to be practical about it and we have to extend and protect ourselves. 

For the first 23 years we never even thought of having a security guard at Sabbath services.  It breaks my heart.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

We live in a world which is becoming increasingly more dangerous.  And I’ll just tell you that I’ve been a Rabbi now 25 years.  For the first 23 years we never even thought of having a security guard at Sabbath services.  It breaks my heart that in the past few years it’s necessary for when people come to synagogue to see security guards with a gun standing at the door at the sanctuary.  That shouldn’t be the case. 

What kind of a world is this that you can’t come pray in freedom. That’s not what our founding fathers envisioned.  They envisioned freedom of religion. The fact that there has to be an element of fear for just coming to a house to worship…we all saw what happened on October 27th in Pittsburgh at The Tree of Life Congregation where eleven Jews were murdered in cold blood just for coming to pray on a day of peace and on a day of rest. 

So that fact that the world is becoming more dangerous and more filled with anger and violence and hatred or the school shooting we saw Parkland here in Florida where 16 young beautiful children were murdered because of a person who was filled with rage and anger.  I think we do have to ask ourselves what is causing this anger in young people.  And clearly, when the person is happy you know they’re not angry. I always use analogy. 

If you’re angry at someone right?  And all of the sudden you win the lottery and you won $23,000,000 and your enemy who you hate walks into the room you just probably hug him and kiss him because you’re so happy just won the lottery that there’s no room for anger in your life, you’re just happy.  So people who are angry and people who are fearful of others…I don’t think they’re happy people because if you’re really happy you’re a loving person.  When you’re dancing at your child’s wedding and your enemy walks in and puts out their hand you’re still so happy you’ll dance with them because at the moment of joy and happiness and love there’s no room to hate. 

So people who are filled with anger and rage usually don’t have love in their life and they usually don’t have happiness.  Because if you really want to get to the root of the problem you have to ask yourself; Why are people so angry?  Why they’re so unhappy?  Why don’t they find fulfillment?  Why is society so shallow today that it’s not giving people real spiritual fulfillment and meaning and purpose. 

A lot of times psychologists talk about this as well as something called projection where we project our own fault unto others.  It’s a Hasidic teaching that every person is a mirror to yourself to your own soul.  And when you see something in someone else that you don’t like it is usually because you could identify with it because it’s really something inside you.  They often tell people when you point a finger at someone else you’re pointing three fingers back at yourself. 

First examine your own deeds before you point fingers at others.  So I think that the culture has become very superficial, very shallow, very meaningless.  And if it’s all material driven then when it comes to materialism, you could always feel…well this person is taking something that’s mine that I should be having. 

That’s why, take hatred towards immigrants for example, ‘Oh, they’re coming into our country they’re taking our money and taking our jobs’.  I’m not saying that it doesn’t have to be a legal and a healthy, pragmatic approach for dealing with this, but this fear of the stranger, the fear of the foreigner that they’re going to take something of yours. 

In material things there is a zero sum gain which means if I have $2 and you take $1. I have $1. I can’t have $2 and give you $1 because in material things there’s only a limited of supply.  But when it comes to spiritual things if you love someone else you have more love.  If you love 10 people it doesn’t diminish your love and increases the love that you have in your heart. 

The more you give the more you have in spiritual matters.  The more you teach other people the more knowledge you have.  And that’s true in every area of spirituality.  The Talmud says if you have a candle with a flame and you light a hundred candles you don’t have less fire, you don’t have less light on your candle on the country. 

Now, you have more light in your world because there is a hundred lit candles.  So when we share a goodness, when we share love we multiply our blessings and therefore the next person is not a threat to me, but they’re an opportunity for me to increase my own happiness and my own love and my own light.  And they say you make a living by what you get, but you make a life at what you give.  And we should cherish the others because the other is the one that gives me an opportunity to expand my soul and to find greater happiness and love and meaning and fulfillment in my life, because real happiness in life doesn’t come from material things.

Real happiness comes from meaning, from purpose, from love, from connections with others.

We all know that.  Those are temporary and fleeting.  Real happiness comes from meaning, from purpose, from love, from connections with others, from connections to God, from sacrifice.  Sometimes the greatest joy in life comes from that which we sacrifice for others.  So if someone is in need and you make a sacrifice for them, that just makes your life more rich.  Maybe you gave away something, but you have more because you gave.  So I think the perspective on life, the perspective on others that every human being is created in the image of God, just because the next person is not like you, they are still just like you. 

Bob Jones:  The image of God.

Rabbi Scheiner:  The image of God.  So, they may not be created in your image, but they’re created in God’s image which is the same as your image.  So more than ever before I think that spiritual values in teachings is important in the education of children and that’s how we raise our children.  We try to give them a healthy diet.  A healthy diet is a balanced diet. 

You can’t just teach a kid only about how to make money and how to be successful. Most of the schooling is about the how of life.  You have to teach them the whys, the meaning, the purpose behind it all.  And therefore not just at the home, but in the school, you know there’s a balanced approach to education and not only towards material skills and physical life skills and knowledge, but spiritual knowledge and spiritual values. 

Because what we’re seeing today whether it’s epidemic with drugs and opioids and all of that is, why would people do these things if not for the fact that they feel a great void, a great dissonance, a great craving and yearning for something to fulfill them. 

Your highest goal for you children is you want them to have meaning in their life.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

Material things and pleasure and the hedonistic lifestyle don’t fulfill you.  I mean Judaism doesn’t have a problem with pleasure.  We believe God created pleasure for our enjoyment like a loving parent wants a child have pleasure in life.  But the greatest ideal for your children is not that they should have a pleasurable life.  You want them to have pleasure in life, too, but your highest goal for your children is you want them to have meaning in their life, you want them to have fulfillment, you want them to have happiness.  And that comes through action, that comes through connection, that comes through accomplishments, that comes through sacrifice. 

Your ultimate goal for them is to have a meaningful life, a productive life an accomplished life.  So your kid says to you; ‘I get pleasure from playing video games so I’m just going to spend the rest of my life playing video games.’  You’re not going to be happy about that and then when your kid says; ‘Don’t you want me to be happy?  That makes me happy. I play video games all day.’  Yeah, but that’s not why God put you in this world to play video games all day. There must be a higher purpose to your soul.  So we all know the goal of life is not just to enjoy life. 

That’s a byproduct of life that it’s beautiful and it’s magnificent and it’s pleasurable.  But there’s a deeper spiritual meaning to life and I think that’s what we have to teach our children, and then automatically the fear will dissipate because we’ll see that. 

I’ll tell you a story.  There was a Rabbi who was once driving with his student of his and they came to a tollbooth and had an Easy Pass to go through the tollbooth.  And the Rabbi pointed that he should go to the booth that has a teller…like a person taking money.  And the student was like, ‘But I have the Easy Pass. I could just zip right through. Why would I stop?’  And the Rabbi said, ‘You have a chance to interact with a machine or with a human being created in the image of God.  How could you pass up an opportunity to say good morning or to say hello or to smile at God’s reflection here on earth?’

Bob Jones:  That’s beautiful. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  That’s a very powerful story.  Every human being now…we look at the people in the teller booth like what could be a worse job than sitting in a little cubicle. We don’t have a lot of respect for these people. We don’t think of them as the most important people.  But what this Rabbi were saying is every human being…no matter what…we shouldn’t just be with famous people, powerful people, influential people, wealthy people, successful people. 

Every human being you encounter is God’s image on earth.  How could you pass up an opportunity to say hello, to talk to, to smile, to do something good for another human being?  When you have that perspective on life you have joy just walking down the street saying good morning to people because you’re encountering God’s image every second. 

Bob Jones:  It’s that Thomas Merton experience. We’re all sacred. We are all shining like the sun.

Robert Kenneth Jones

ChaplainUSA Contributing Editor

Bob Jones has dedicated his life to making people whole again. His work in helping others overcome addiction and childhood abuse spans over four decades. 

America the Angry: A Way Forward with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

Part One of Contributing Editor Bob Jones’ conversation with Rabbi Moshe Scheiner of the Palm Beach Synagogue in Florida.

It’s everywhere you look; rampant school shootings, a massacre at a synagogue, leaders spouting angry rhetoric and our own heated exchanges on social media.

America, land of the free and home of the brave, appears to be in the grip of fear and anger. The question is why and what can we do about it.

As I searched the internet for some perspective on this epidemic of fear, I happened upon a video of Rabbi Moshe Scheiner entitled Anger: Fear Announced.

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner Story

Twenty five years ago, Rabbi Scheiner and his wife Rebbetzin Dinie Scheiner founded Palm Beach Synagogue (PBS) where their mission has been one of outreach and inclusiveness.  The Palm Beach Daily News recently quoted him as he affirmed that PBS is a place where “Everyone feels welcome. No one is judged for lack of knowledge or observance.”

Rabbi Moshe E. Scheiner was born and raised in Brooklyn. He holds a Masters degree of Talmudic studies and Jewish philosophy from the Rabbinical College of America. He completed a two-year internship at the Rabbinical College of Australia and New Zealand and returned to New York to receive his rabbinic ordination at the United Lubavitcher Yeshiva.

He has lectured to communities in Australia, New Zealand, Taiwan, Singapore, Colombia and, other communities throughout South America and the United States. In 1994 he became the founding Rabbi of the Palm Beach Synagogue. He also founded the Ethel & Eugene Joffe Maimonides Leadership Institute for post Bar and Bat Mitzvah students. Rabbi Scheiner resides in Palm Beach with his Rebbetzin, Dinie, and their six children.

After a brief introductory conversation with Rabbi Scheiner, I was convinced his was the voice of reason for which I was searching.  

Offered here in four parts are segments from our conversation on fear and anger.

Rabbi Scheiner’s words and stories frame our nation’s bitter and sometimes violent crisis, while offering a spiritual tonic for our troubled times.

Part 1: In this first part of our conversation, Rabbi Scheiner explores fear and the spiritual reality of God-With-Us.

Bob Jones:  Do you feel like anger and fear seem to be on the rise in your community and in the world? 

Rabbi Scheiner

Rabbi Scheiner:  I do.  I feel that as society drifts further away from spirituality and further towards materialism, we lose our spiritual equilibrium. And fear, as someone once told me, is F-E-A-R, which stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.  The world sometimes seems like a frightening place and when we stand as individual souls, disconnected from one another and we don’t have our spiritual connection to each other, then our egos begin clashing with other people’s egos and immediately we lose.

If one has faith and true spiritual connection with others then there’s nothing to fear. As King David said in Psalm 23, “I fear no evil for you are with me.”  So, I think we need to grow closer together to each other and closer together to God and that replaces fear with faith and disconnection and (God forbid) hatred or anger towards others with love and connection to one another. 

Rabbi Moshe Scheiner

Bob Jones:  As you were speaking I was thinking of the AA people (Alcoholics Anonymous) people who would say, “Ego is Edging God Out.” 

Rabbi Scheiner:  Absolutely.  And one of the key teachings of Judaism is that our body is maybe different and separates from one another, but our souls are really all one because they come from one divine God.  And in order for God to be our father in heaven we have to be his family here on earth.  When we focus on our souls more than our physical beings and then realize that that’s the essence or our identity, we realize there’s nothing to separates us or distinguishes us from our fellow man. 

We all have the same – we all know we have the same – color of blood.  We all have the same feelings and joys and sorrows and pains.  And when we realize our spirits are really made up of the same fabric cut from the same cloth, then we focus on our oneness rather than our separateness.  And I think that our society sometimes pulls us away from that message.  But the more we connect to that message and that idea, the more we are going to love and embrace others rather than fear them and reject them. 

Bob Jones:  Yeah, that reminds of your response to the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, when you said “The response to evil is increased goodness, the response to hatred is increased love, and the response to death is to help save the lives of others. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  Absolutely. 

Bob Jones:  When we respond to fear with anger what happens to us and to the other? 

Rabbi Scheiner:  So we become much smaller. 

King Solomon said it best when he said in the book of Proverbs ‘a little bit of light expels a great deal of darkness’.  The answer to darkness in the world is to just create light and then the darkness is driven out by itself. 

When we respond with malice and with anger we become a captive prisoner of our own anger, and it enslaves us to become subservient to a power which is very destructive, and harmful to our own physical, emotional and psychological and spiritual well-being. 

Rabbi Scheiner on YouTube

As I pointed out on the video the word “DANGER” is one letter, just add a letter D to anger and you have DANGER. Because in our tradition it is said that the one trait that you shouldn’t take is the middle path, but you should go to an extreme which is anger.  A person should never get angry.  The only time it says you can get angry is when you need to discipline a child and you need to act like you’re angry. But a person should never get angry because anger is just desperate and multiplies the problem, increases the problem, and doesn’t solve anything. 

Someone gave me the analogy that it’s like your car in Park and you floor the gas pedal it makes a lot of noise, but it doesn’t move anywhere.  A person who’s angry is like a brain that is in park. He can’t move and he’s just making a lot of noise, but it’s not going to get him anywhere because he’s locked – in a lock position. Emotionally he’s locked. He can’t hear. He can’t receive. He can’t grow. You can’t evolve in that state. 

Rabbis take it so far in the Talmud that they say that anger is equivalent to idolatry. And you may say how could you equate anger with idolatry? I mean, idolatry is denying God’s existence. And the answer is because if you truly believe everything in this world comes from God and everything that happens…every circumstance…is ordained from above, then you have no one to fear and no circumstance with fear because whatever circumstance you’re in, God put you in that circumstance. 

And so it’s like, I use the analogy of a mother going on a journey and that she’s going from one country to the next and getting in and out of taxis, and going in to airports, and boarding planes and de-boarding.  And in every leg of the journey if you ask the mother where are you?  She’ll say, “Well, I’m in this country, I’m traveling to this city, I’m going to this town, I’m going on to this country.”  But if the mother is carrying an infant baby and you ask the baby throughout the journey where are you?  The baby says, “I’m in the same place I always was they always was…in my mother’s loving arms.” 

If you go the journey of life feeling like you’re controlling your destiny (and yes of course God gives us free will) but ultimately there’s a Higher Power that decides the direction of our lives.  And when you know it’s coming from a loving father in heaven then you could accept it and say, ‘Well, this is a test.  God’s putting me through a challenge because it’s for my benefit’. You know sometimes a parent gives a child a sweet medicine, sometimes it’s a bitter medicine.  But the parent gives the medicine for the benefit of the child. 

For every circumstance in life is there is a reason…and God put it there…and we have to find the reason God gave us that challenge and turn the darkness into light, or the stumbling stone into a stepping stone. 

Bob Jones:  It reminds me to the when you talked about the golden path, that middle way.  That’s so accurate and so true. 

Rabbi Scheiner:  Thank you.

Robert Kenneth Jones

ChaplainUSA Contributing Editor

Bob Jones has dedicated his life to making people whole again. His work in helping others overcome addiction and childhood abuse spans over four decades.