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Weekly Message

Healthy Fat!

Yesterday, while Menny was skiing at Bridger with his buddy Ari and Shoshana was relaxing at home with books and music, I headed to Spanish Peaks, with Chaya and Zeesy in tow, to affix Mezuzot at the home of our friends Dorita and Hal. While enjoying our conversation, I was inspired by an idea shared by Hal regarding Tzedakah, giving charity; he said, “it’s not really yours until you give it away”. I don’t know if everyone can accept that idea as fact, but the importance of giving away a percentage of our income is vital, not only to the perseverance of Jewish life and a healthy society, but to our personal sense of spiritual fulfillment and growth.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the first in the book of Leviticus, we read about the sacrificial offerings. In the midst of it all we read that “the kohen shall cause it to go up in smoke on the altar, consumed as a fire offering, with a pleasing fragrance. All sacrificial fat belongs to the Lord.” “Fat” is not only an animal part, but a figure of speech for “the very best”. As Maimonides writes “In this way, one who desires to gain merit for himself, subjugate his evil inclination, and amplify his generosity should bring his sacrifice from the most desirable and superior type of the item he is bringing. For it is written in the Torah ( Genesis 4:4)"And Abel brought from his chosen flocks and from the superior ones and God turned to Abel and his offering."

The story is told of the Holy Reb Zusha of Anipoli, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the good you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!" "I'm afraid!" said Reb Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know G-d's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that G-d will ask 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!". True, it’s not easy, as we like to hang on to our hard-earned cash, but that’s exactly why it’s so special, doing the best we can. Yes, I am a Rabbi/Fundraiser, but like every Jew, I tithe, and giving charity is most rewarding.  It’s not only about the quantity of our gift; it’s about sincerity and quality.

Charity, the secret to fulfillment and accessible 24/7!


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!


Moses & Math!

Earlier this week, I was honored to represent Montana at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. (click here for pics). In addition to engaging in important networking events, I was able to listen to diverse perspectives about Israel’s current state of affairs. From Ambassador Nikki Haley to Senator Chuck Schumer, from Vice President Mike Pence to Senator Amy Klobuchar, the speakers were all passionate about their love for the Jewish people and unwavering support of the Holy Land. It’s not often that people set aside their personal politics for the greater good, but at AIPAC I saw that it’s certainly possible.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Vayakhel – Pekudei, we read about the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Moses descends from the mountain on Yom Kippur with G-d’s merciful gift of forgiveness and the next morning, Tishrei 11, he instructs Jewry to build a home for G-d on earth. He demands that everyone join together, each gifting their unique talents and strengths, to ensure the perfection of this holy abode. From weaving tapestries to creating beam sockets, from collecting herbs for the incense offering to donating mirrors to create a washing basin, men and women put their tribalism aside to make this a reality.

It’s high time for the Jewish people to do the same today. We MUST cut the nonsense and internal gossiping. We don’t have to all agree, we don’t have to all be in sync and we definitely don’t need to demonize those who disagree with us. Let’s focus on our relationship with G-d, His Torah and His land and put aside our differences for the greater good. Way too often, marginalization, discrimination and hatred doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside the Jewish camp and that’s just plain wrong. Moses taught us that each of us is good at something and we must utilize that uniqueness for the betterment of our people and humanity. I don’t agree with all the speakers at AIPAC (and don’t even agree with all of AIPAC’s founding philosophies) but when eighteen thousand Jews and gentiles get together for a good cause, in this case a love for Israel, it’s inspiring and a reason for hope.

Moses was good at math, but division was his least favorite subject!


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Batter Up!

Last night was truly incredible! A packed house of joyous souls gathered at The Baxter for a rokin Purim in Candyland (Photo Gallery) with Chavie’s mouthwatering food, a bar with L’Chaim galore, Walt’s fantastic magic show, a Megillah reading at the speed of light and an atmosphere of unadulterated joy that lifted us above and beyond, as we say in Yiddish Tefach Hecher! Young and old, native and newcomer, regulars and Holiday-Jews, all came together to celebrate the story of a woman who stepped up to the plate and saved the day.

You see, in this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tisa, we read about the sin of all time, the molding of a golden calf. The problem with that disgraceful moment, wasn’t only the actual sin, but also the multitudes of Jews who stood at the sidelines and didn’t try to stop the insane perversion. You’re standing and watching your fellow brothers creating an inanimate “leader” who they claimed took them out of Egypt, and you don’t have the decency to put your arm around their shoulder and remind them that they just received the Torah at Sinai and that this is unbecoming? You can’t invite them over for a drink and lovingly knock some sense into them? Esther had her moment too. She hesitated, but Mordechai got her going, and she then changed the trajectory of Jewish history.

We each have our Purim moment. We can either sit back and say “I’m sure someone will step up and do right by our people, but I’m too cozy watching football and I don’t want to stand out”, or we can be like Esther and say “I know my life is on the line, but if not now, when? and if not me, who? I must stand up for my people, for myself, at all costs”. Let’s internalize Purim, let’s channel the joy of Esther into the joy of doing right because it’s right. Let’s step up to the plate at our moment, even if your “so called” friends think your “addiction to Judaism” is a little overkill. Life is not a contest of getting Facebook likes, it’s an opportunity to change the world and only when we’re in Esther mode can we accomplish this.

Talk is cheap; Esther chose action!  


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

More than just a potato Knish!

On Tuesday, Chana Laya’s first day at Bozeman Montessori, our family hosted Mary Brennan, her teacher in the Nido class, at our home. During dinner, I asked Mary Brennan why she chose to do this kind of work, she responded “I believe that working with the children in the classroom allows me to change the world”. So, puzzled, I asked her “even at the infant age of six months?”, to which she responded, “Oh yeah, it’s amazing what they learn in their youth, especially at this young age”. Naturally, our conversation got me thinking about Jewish education.

Why should I Shelpp my baby to hear the Ten Commandments on Shavuot? Who needs these “wild” kids to stay up until nightfall to eat Matzah at the Seder and ask the Ma Nishtana? Why is it important to fly a Mohel to Montana to give my baby boy a proper Bris? Isn’t a doctor enough? The Torah answers this with the famous verse “For the man is the three of the field”. If we’d like our children to grow to be strong, fruitful and healthy trees, we must ensure that their roots are strong, hence the focus on the years of their youth. Throwing around a few Yiddish terms like “A Bissel”, “Shaine Punim” and “Nudnik”, while scarfing down Rugelach and potato Knish’s, will not strengthen their roots; bringing them to Shul regularly, increasing Kosher in the home and taking them out of school for Biblical Jewish holidays will leave an indelible mark on their character.

On Thursday we will joyfully celebrate Purim. We all know about evil Haman, awesome Mordechai and heroic Esther, what we may not know about is the role the children played in the story. The Midrash writes that “Haman found Mordechai in the study hall with twenty-two thousand childrendressed in sackcloth learning Torah and crying out to G-d in prayer. Haman bound them in chains and told them that the next day they would be the first to be slain followed by Mordechai. The mothers of these children wanted to send food, but the children would rather fast and weep for the salvation of their people. Their cries went straight up to heaven. G-d heard them and arose from His seat of judgment to go sit on His seat of mercy. At that moment, G-d tore up the evil decree against Jewry”. Don’t misuse the youth years of your child.

Xbox won’t do it!



May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Planting Hope!

While I’d much rather write about Shoshana’s track competition, Rabbi Manis Friedman’s enlightening book launch and perhaps my visit to Dillon to speak at UM Western, I can’t ignore the horrific reality out of Parkland, Florida. There were things that, on occasion, would interfere with my positive school experience. Bullies, boredom, bad lunches, un-athlete abilities, teachers who were out to lunch, but I can’t even imagine how frightening It would be hiding in a closet for hours, texting my parents “I love you, thanks for everything”, not knowing if a mentally disturbed young man was going to murder me in mere moments.

When feeling helpless, we need signs of hope.

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the Tabernacle. When building the Holy Ark, they needed acacia wood, yet, unlike other materials, they didn’t have to buy it from the traveling merchants; they had it already. Where from? Rabbi Tanchuma explained that our forefather Jacob foresaw with the holy spirit that the Israelites were destined to build a tabernacle in the desert, so he brought cedars to Egypt and planted them. He commanded his sons to take them with them when they left EgyptTanchuma, from the word Nechama, means comfort. Jacob planted trees of comfort for his Jewish family, so that throughout their horrific enslavement, they should always see and know that freedom is inevitable and there are brighter/liberating days ahead.

We need to plant our own cedar trees. We need to plant trees of hope, showing our youngsters that we care deeply about these heartless school shootings. Yes, we care deeply about the seventeen families who have lost a love one and will never be the same, but that’s not enough. We MUST tackle the mental illness issues embedded in our society. We can’t sweep it under the rug, we can’t stigmatize therapy, counseling and medications and we can’t ignore signs that indicate trouble may be on the horizon. Until Mashiach comes, we won’t be able to stop all violence and terror, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop some of it. Let’s show our kids a little less gun violence on TV and video games, let’s teach our children to be more delicate with, and not make fun of, those who who are different and let’s answer all the warning calls, so we don’t end up here again.

May G-d comfort the mourning families, the people of Florida and our beloved USA!


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Thank You Chavie!

Job well done, Verizon. In their Super Bowl ad "Answering the Call” they thanked first responders who sacrifice for total strangers, and they asked us to do the same. Recently I’ve been reading with Chaya the story of the pilgrims. William and Dorothy Bradford wanted to create a colony in the new world that would be founded on the principal of individual freedom. Yet, they understood that the voyage would be tough, so they left their only son, three-year-old John, behind in Holland, until the time would be ripe for him to join them. Sacrifice is never easy, sometimes even illogical, which is why we admire those who choose that path.

On Wednesday, Chabad Chassidim commemorated the 30th Yahrtzait anniversary of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the Rebbe’s beloved wife of almost sixty years. Growing up in Crown Heights, a mere three blocks away from their home, I never merited to see the Rebbetzin, nor did my mother who grew up in the same neighborhood. The Rebbetzin was extremely private, would refer to herself as “Mrs. Schneerson” when calling the local groceries and was the prime reason The Rebbe agreed to assume the leadership of “Lubavitch” when his father-in-law passed away in 1950. She could’ve kept the Rebbe for herself, they could’ve continued living a private life like they did in Berlin, Paris and for a decade in New York, but she sacrificed that life so that the world could have a Rebbe.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read that “you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” G-d wants us to recognize the sacrifice of the convert; the life and lifestyle, the family and friends, they’ve given up becoming a Jew, and forewarns us about mistreating them. Today I say thank you publicly to the Rebbetzin. All those moments that the Rebbe spent with me, talking to me, giving me dollars for charity and blessings for my birthday, writing letters to my parents for my birth and Upshernish, those were moments that belonged to her, it was her husband, and she gave them to me, to the world.

Chavie is spending a few days in Brooklyn celebrating the Rebbetzin’s life with thousands of her peers from around the globe. These amazing women are, at times, less noticed than their husbands who are running around visiting prisons, addressing communal issues, raising funds and drinking lots of coffee with lots of people. Yet, I assure you that without my bedrock Chavie, like with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, I would never be able to do what I do, never be able to spend the hours I do and never be able to push through those unbearable moments of challenge. Thank you dear Chavie for your enormous sacrifice, being my Rebbetzin, my anchor, and the amazing mother of our five children.

What is mine and what is yours, is hers!


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

In Search of a Jewish Bible!

On Monday, while getting my flu shot, the pharmacist asked me if I knew where she could get a “Jewish Bible”, so that she can learn “it” from the “Jewish perspective”. I told her I could get her a copy and she was delighted. It happens almost every week, a gentile reaches out, be it by phone, email or in person, to get an authentic Torah book so they can enrich their lives from Moses’ Five Books. I don’t know if this is the rabbinic experience elsewhere, but it’s refreshing to me, that in Big Sky Country people are seeking the light of Judaism.

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we experience the ultimate revelation; G-d giving the Torah at Sinai. While humanity has an impressive list of marvelous, yet extremely debatable, spiritual moments, none, besides Sinai, have been authenticated by millions of witnesses. It was “THE” moment where heaven kissed earth and Jewry was gifted with six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, opportunities to bond with G-d. Hashem didn’t just bequeath us “Commandments”, He didn’t just institute “Laws” for us, but rather, He gave us each a G-dly perspective. He was saying “Kinderlach, my dear children, life is tough enough, let me hold your hand and walk you through your earthly journey and give you the tools you need to make the very best of it”.

Every Mitzvah fuels personal betterment.

Here are two examples from the Ten Commandments: Honor thy father and thy mother. Why? Because it engrains in us the importance of gratitude. It doesn’t mean that our parents are perfect, we just need to focus on the fact that they brought us into the world, period. Subsequently, we’ll be grateful to G-d who, not only blessed our parents with life and brought them together, but created Adam, the first human. Similarly, with the commandment of “Thou shall not covet”. Why not? Because coveting leads to intimidation and possibly theft, as we try to attain the item we covet. Take a moment, savor the taste of a thought in Abarbenel or Sefer Hachinuch and you’ll see that It’s more than just the practice, it’s the inner change that occurs in the process.

The world is seeking it, we have it, let’s enjoy it!


May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

In G-d Do I Trust?

My parents taught me the importance of keeping my word. So it was very hurtful for Chavie and I, when, earlier this week, someone we trusted reneged on a firm commitment. Naturally, I was questioning my faith in humanity. Yet, twenty-four hours later we were dealing with another issue, wondering how we would pay for the new Mikvah heater, after our current one died, and lo and behold, a group of 30+ committed souls on Facebook came together to make that a reality, giving us a glimpse of humanity at its best. The eternal words of King David, that I’ve prayed thousands of times, were ringing in my head all week long, “Do not trust in princes, in the son of men, who has no salvation”.


Believe in humanity but trust only in G-d.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the Manna, a heavenly bread delivered to the door step of every Jewish family in the Sinai desert. For almost forty years they received their primary sustenance through this Divine food and instead of getting a weekly ration, they received it every morning anew. G-d was using the Manna as a teaching tool, instilling within His people trust. “I believe in G-d”, “I am religious”, even the mighty dollar bill screams out “In God we trust”. Yet, us so called believers, often times lack the trust, that indeed G-d will be our provider. We say in Grace after Meals “Who, in His goodness, provides sustenance for the entire world with grace, with kindness, and with mercy. He gives food to all flesh, for His kindness is everlasting”. Yet, when we are done the melodious singing, do we actually believe it?

I admit that this is hard to internalize, but if G-d can provide Manna from heaven, he can certainly ensure that we won’t go hungry. He doesn’t want us to sit back and rely on him without working hard; we must make a vessel for His light, His countenance, His blessings, but to think that our survival is dependent on this one or that one, this investor and that banker, even if they’ve committed and signed on the dotted line, is silly. Those who are unethical will have to answer to the Almighty, as for me, I must walk the walk and remember that Hashem is always in charge and if you think He isn’t, that’s probably why you’re anxious.

Through the fire, through the hell!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!


I Want To Break Free!

The feedback from the Shabbaton was remarkable. The thoughts shared by Hollywood screenwriter David Weiss, specifically the idea that his journey back to his Jewish faith was one of many baby steps in the right direction, resonated deeply with those who participated. It wasn’t overnight, it wasn’t a quick fix; it was slow but steady. Interestingly, yesterday, Chavie started her new course “Pause & Affect – A Shabbat Outlook” and it got me thinking; there’s no better place to start a journey of more observance than the Shabbat experience.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read about the miraculous exodus from Egypt. On Shabbat, while sanctifying the day, Kiddush, over a cup of wine, we thank G-d who “has desired us, and has given us, in love and goodwill, His holy Shabbat as a heritage, in remembrance of the work of Creation; the first of the holy festivals, commemorating the Exodus from Egypt”. Shabbat is not only a weekly opportunity to remember the Creator and His amazing creation, but it’s a time to remember Egypt. To paraphrase Maimonides in his Guide to the Perplexed, slaves can’t choose when to work and when to rest, but a free person can. When a Jew celebrates Shabbat, they are celebrating their freedom from Egyptian – and all other – bondage.

All weeklong we are enslaved to the mundane. We’re trying to make a living, to care for our families, to shovel the snow, do the laundry and to enjoy a few hours of sleep.  G-d recognized this reality and gave us a day to simply let go. G-d gives us the weekly opportunity to free ourselves from internal bondage, internal Egypt, and head to the promised land of spirit, soul and family. Shabbat is a freeing day to focus inwardly without being concerned with who likes us on Facebook, retweets us on Twitter and shares our pictures on Instagram. Enjoying Shabbat is not all or nothing; you do a little, then a little more, at your own pace.

TGI Shabbat – one weekend at a time!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Show Him Passion!

Monday night, after my GPS malfunctioned and a Divine Providential meetup with my friends Marty and Julie who saved the day, I spent a few hours with a group of Jews from New York vacationing at Moonlight Basin. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with them over culinary magic. We talked thoughts of Torah, stories of lost luggage and they were extremely curious about Jewish life out west; yet, close to midnight, as I was winding on the 191 back to Bozeman, I was still discernibly inspired by what three brothers shared with me: they never miss praying with a Minyan. Eleven years, thirteen years, that’s a long time to never miss a Minyan, but whether journeying through Uganda for pleasure or doing Business in Asia, they either arrange for a Minyan at the destination or bring a Minyan along.


I love Jews with passion.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, we read about stubborn Pharaoh and his illogical defiance in face of the Ten Plagues. The first plague was when the water of Egypt, including their “worshiped” Nile, turned to blood. G-d was sending Egypt, and all of us, an eternal message: Don’t be cold like water. G-d was hoping to educate the Egyptians to be less doubtful about spirituality and Himself, the Creator, and to be more “Hot blooded”, more passionate, more alive. Living beings are warm and deceased bodies are cold. Moses was hoping that The Pharaoh would understand that his cold apathetic approach was the source of his spiritual misalignment and he’d change his ways. Pharaoh was a slow learner, but we can learn from his mistakes a lot quicker.

We tend to be passionate about the NFL, the NCAA, sushi, vacation, the Golden Globes and about our political philosophies. We are excited when our children know everything about Martin Luther King, Shakespeare, Michelangelo and Abraham Lincoln, but are we passionate about Shabbat, Passover and Shavuot? Do we dance for joy when our children know everything about  Rabina ,  Reb Moshe Feinstein , the  Baal Shem Tov  or Abudraham ? American Jewry must realign their passions. Watch football, read Shakespeare and be politically savvy, but our “passion” should be utilized for the things that enhance our relationship with G-d, our families and to be a better member of society.

Inner Fire!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!


Mincha in Morocco!

After my Zayde Shimon’s passing, a bit over a year ago, he, and my Bubbe Esther of blessed memory, posthumously gifted me with the opportunity to travel with our family and see parts of the world, otherwise out of our reach. So, after an amazing Chanukah in Montana, we headed off for eight days of family alone time in Spain, Morocco, France and Gibraltar. I will write a separate article about the trip itself and what it taught me, but today I’d like to focus on one aspect of the journey: the importance of a healthy Jewish identity. Whether in the market place of Tangier or the Rock of Gibraltar, the Eiffel Tower or at JFK in New York, we stood out as a “Jewish Family”.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the first in the Book of Exodus, we read about the enslavement of our people in Egypt. The Midrash teaches, that despite the spiritual disillusionment of Jewry, there were important characteristics that they never abandoned. Although they dabbled in Egyptian culture and idolatry, they never changed their language, dress code and Jewish names. We aren’t perfect people, we don’t always get the G-d thing right, but there are certain things that are integral to ensuring we don’t totally drop the ball. When we are called Moshe or Chaya, our Jewish names, when we dress modestly and with a Yarmulke/Kippah; this helps us retain our connection to the G-d of Israel.

While on the late afternoon express ferry from Tangier to Tarifa, there were a few Muslims on board who went to a corner, laid down their prayer rug and started their third prayer of the day. I needed to pray my second prayer of the day, Mincha, so I put on my hat, my Gartel and stood near them to say the Amidah. I wasn’t trying to be cool or looking for trouble, I simply saw it as an opportunity to show them that we aren’t that different at our core after all. When I was done, I told the ferry attendants that I was a “Yahud”, a Jew, and that we both pray to one G-d. Yes, while wrapping up in my Talis and Tefillin in Malaga’s airport, a few people seemed slightly uncomfortable, but we are Jews, and if our people were able to identify as such in Egypt in 1400 BCE, we can certainly do so in Big Sky Country in 2018!

Free from internal bondage; being Jewish 24/7, no matter where we are!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Mamma Mia!

It’s hard for me to believe that my mom, lovingly known as Chanchy, has been gone for seven years. On Sunday my siblings and I gathered in New York to visit her gravesite, say a heartfelt Kaddish and celebrate/memorialize the life of a woman who was a mother par excellence. There is so much about the beautiful family Chavie and I have created together, that I wish she was alive to experience. I’d love for her to see how our myriad of Chabad activities in Big Sky Country have grown. I would really like to take her out for lunch in the City. Yet, while she isn’t alive in conventional terms, as I sat around with my amazing siblings, brothers and sisters who are truly one unit, I realized that if she keeps her beloved children unified, she is alive within each of us, all the time.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the last in the book of Genesis, we read about our Jacob’s passing. He appeals to his son Joseph to ensure his burial in Israel. He then, oddly enough, mentions to his beloved Joseph “As for me, when I came from Padan, Rachel died to me in the land of Canaan on the way…and I buried her there on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem.”Rashi explains “I know that you hold it against me; but you should know that I buried her there by divine command, so that she would be of assistance to her children. When Nebuzaradan exiles the Israelites, and they pass by there, Rachel will emerge from her grave and weep and beg mercy…”. 50 years after Rachel’s passing, Joseph still missed his mother deeply, so much so that Jacob chose to lecture him – soothing his emotional pain - on the details of her burial.  That’s a Yiddishe Kind, one who never loses touch with his Yiddishe Mame.

King David says in Psalms “When the Lord counts in the script of the peoples”. As the world is about to celebrate their New Year, it’s an opportunity to make good resolutions. Every human has a mother. While some may be better at their job than others, they all gave us something special called “life”. Let’s resolve that 2018 be a year of daily “Mother’s Day”. If, like mine, your mom is in heaven, honor her by ensuring that when people meet you, they’ll say “fortunate is she who  gave birth to him/her”. If your mom is alive, utilize every possible opportunity to show her respect, spend time with her, call/facetime her, treat her like the queen that she is, because when it comes to honoring our parents, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

A Yiddishe Mame!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

CEO of Nachas!

Light, light and even more light, all packed into eight short days. Last Tuesday we hosted our 2017 Chanukah BashWednesday we celebrated in Dillon at UMWSaturday night we lit the Menorah downtown with Senator Jon TesterSunday we illuminated Livingston with Commissioner Mel Friedman while children were making Dreidel Spinners at the Fun ZoneMonday we spent all day celebrating in Helena, including with the Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State and State Auditor, and finally on Zos Chanukah we hosted a special evening of  Sip and Paint for women and teenage girls. This doesn’t even include the visits that our two rabbinic students made to the elderly, Israeli’s working at the mall and those incarcerated in Warm Springs. In addition, Rabbi Berry & Shayna hosted two amazing celebrations in Missoula, including at the Southgate Mall, and the first ever Menorah lighting in Hamilton with Sheriff Steve Holton.

Authentic Judaism lives under the Big Sky.

In this week’s emotionally charged Torah portion, Vayigash, Joseph finally reveals his identity to his broken brothers “Joseph said to his brothers, "I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?" but his brothers could not answer him because they were startled by his presence.” Indeed, the brothers head back to Israel, sharing the unbelievable news with their inconsolable father. When Jacob finally overcomes the initial shock, we are told “the spirit of their father Jacob was revived.” Indeed, there is no greater joy for a Jewish parent than their child -  not only being tremendously successful, but - retaining their identity as a Jew despite living in an “Egyptian” culture. Joseph’s seventeen young years with his father Jacob, empowered him so deeply, that even twenty two years of separation, living in a very non-Jewish environment, didn’t change him or his values.

As I said L’Chaim and celebrated Chanukah with hundreds of Jews in our beloved Montana, it was crystal clear to me that we too want to raise the next generation of Josephs. How can we do that in 2017? Like, the Menorah, we must constantly increase in light. Yes, we did Chanukah but if we want our little boy or girl to know more than the “Dreidel Dreidel” song, we can’t be on “winter break” until Purim or Pesach. Let’s resolve to give our “Josephs” what Jacob gave his, so that, in addition to our children becoming Big Macher CEO’s, we will also be welcomed one day into their homes, decorated on Chanukah with Menorahs Dreidels, Latkes, Donuts and Gelt, with no other greenery, if you know what I mean.  

When Joseph is alive, Jacob is on a high! 

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Dearest Judah....

Dearest Judah and your fellow Maccabees,

I write to you on this third day of Chanukah to thank you on behalf of Montanan Jewry. You see, like you guys back in 139 BCE, the Jews of Montana are a minority and are up against the mighty forces of secularism and assimilation. It’s not easy being a Jew in 2017, when society tries to convince you that everything sacred is silly and that all worldly silliness Is holy. When we feel down, when we feel like it’s a losing battle, when we feel like we are swimming upstream, we think of you, Judah and your beloved four brothers and sister Yehudis, as you remind us that we must “never say never”.

You taught us a few vital lessons: 1) No matter how strong the opposition, Judaism is always worth defending. 2) Giving up is not an option, even when most Jews would rather hang out with the modern-day Greeks than with you and your family. 3) It’s never a good time to stop searching for pure oil to create light. 4) Light always outshines darkness, even if it takes a miracle. 5) A family united is unbeatable. 6) We don’t only do it for ourselves, but for the generations of Jews that will come after us. There are more lessons, but it’s these six that really hit home for me.

I can’t imagine the challenges your courageous family faced back then. You lost brothers, both blood and non-blood, during the war, you watched our Holy Temple be desecrated including the placing of a pig on the alter, you had to put up with fellow Jews who labeled you “too radical”, “unapologetically Jewish” or even saying you were “fundamentalists”, just because you weren’t ready to surrender to the Greek ideology of body - versus soul - worshiping. Yet, you heeded your father Matisyahu’s guidance and stood on principle, thus guaranteeing the future of Judaism. I think of you often and I realize how much clarity you must have had during those tumultuous times and I am grateful for, even somewhat envious of, people like you.

As we approach the Shabbat of Chanukah, I want you to know that throughout Montana, from Hamilton to Great Falls, Helena to Livingston, Menorah’s are shining bright. Your victory was Jewry’s eternal victory, as your inspiration reverberates until this very moment. We aren’t just celebrating a triumphant of our Jewish ancestors, but rather, the never-ending pursuit of light and the untouchable brightness that exists in our Neshama, our soul. The world needs more Maccabee’s who are ready to defend the light and heritage of Judaism, no matter the enemy, whether an anti-Semite in Malmo Sweden who physically threatens the Jew or MTV which undermines our spiritual wellbeing.

When I’m in Israel next, I’d love to swing by your family’s resting place in Horbat Sheikh Gharbawi to say thank you. Thank you for teaching me that there’s more to life than “public opinion” and that being courageous is in fact a Judeo value. I will say the Hallel prayer again today and thank G-d for His miracles and for His soldiers on earth who made His job a bit easier. 

Have a happy Chanukah, General Judah!

A staunch admirer,












May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

The Gift of Family!

After an uplifting Farbrengen with Rabbi Yitzchok Wolf of Chicago (pics here), celebrating my 36th birthday and the Rosh Hashana of Chassidism , I hopped over to South Florida for twelve hours (and thirteen hours of flying), to address the high school students of the Rohr Bais Chaya Academy in honor of this auspicious day. It was remarkable to speak to a room of teenage girls who are genuinely interested in Torah depth and spiritual growth. A perk of visiting Florida is spending time, albeit a few short hours, with my older brother Yochanan and his beautiful family. When I’m around my family I tend to turn into a kid again; giggling, teasing and just having sibling fun.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeishev, which I read for my Bar Mitzvah , we read about Joseph seeking out his ten half-brothers on behalf of his father Jacob. It was no secret that his brothers shunned him, but siblings are siblings, and Joseph heads out seeking “Es Achai Anochi Mevakesh - I am looking for my brothers. Tell me now, where are they pasturing?”. While they didn’t reciprocate with the decency expected of family, they inherently loved him, and it was palpable years later when they finally reunite with Joseph as Viceroy of Egypt. Siblings can be asinine on occasion, but my parents raised us with the understanding that when siblings get along and are there for each other, nothing can stop them.

On Tuesday evening we will usher in Chanukah, the festival of lights, when we celebrate the Maccabee victory over the Syrian Greeks 2,156 years ago. The Greeks demanded the defilement of Judaism and Matisyahu, along with his five sons, Shimon, Elazar, Yonatan, Yehuda and Yochanan, were unwilling to sell out. Undoubtedly, Chanukah was miraculous in the deliverance of the “mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few” and the kindling of “lights in Your holy courtyards” which is why we celebrate with such fervor.  Yet, it is also a reminder of how much can be accomplished when a family works together. When - despite their age difference, personalities and world view -  the five Maccabee brothers bond together, nothing can stop them from illuminating the world for generations to come. Whether Joseph or Judah the Maccabee, they taught us by example, that there’s nothing as vital as family.

Happy Chanukah brothers and sisters!  

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May He protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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