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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

A new month begins today -- the month of Tammuz. I recently heard a wonderful thought on daily renewal from the writings of the holy Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Hasidic movement:

When a person awakens from sleep, he must pay attention to three things: his first thought, his first words, and his first action. We express ourselves, after all, in our thoughts, words, and actions. We need to be strict and precise in ensuring that the start of the day is positive.

If the first thought of the day is, "Oy, the alarm clock is ringing," it will negatively influence the thoughts of that day. In the realm of speech, "A person should be careful to sanctify his first words of the day," the Baal Shem Tov wrote, in order that his words will continue in the same holy direction the remainder of the day.

Perhaps that is why, in the prayer book, the first sentence that we say when rising is: "I offer thanks to you, living and eternal King, for you have mercifully returned my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great." Thus, the words that open the day are always about gratitude and faith.

And regarding action, it is imperative to pay attention to the first thing we do every morning, the activity with which we open the day.

Good thoughts, good words, good actions. Have a good month.

And here is a suggestion from this Shabbat's Torah reading to help this happen:

Will it be "Likes" or criticism?*

It's fun to hear compliments, much less fun to hear criticism. Korach, in this week's Torah portion, has his gaze fixed on public opinion polls. Seeking strong populist support, he says to Moshe and to Aharon:

"All members of the congregation are holy, and Hashem is in their midst. So why do you raise yourselves above the Hashem's assembly?" (Numbers 16:3)

According to Korach, everyone is holy, everyone is wonderful, everyone is perfect. There is nothing that needs improvement. We have rights, but no obligations.

Moshe Rabbeinu, on the other hand, does not just dispense compliments, but also demands something from us. When Moshe speaks to the people about holiness, he articulates this divine challenge:

"You shall be holy, for I, HaShem your God, am holy." Leviticus 19:2)

This is the entire story: Are we focused on "all are holy" in the present or "you shall be holy" in the future? Are we perfect or is there always room for improvement? Do we look only at the "likes," or also at the criticism?

Do we rest on our laurels or understand that there is always more work to be done?

It's more fun to listen to Korach, but more instructive and more beneficial to listen to Moshe Rabbeinu.