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Weekly Message

Weekly Message

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Finding Nemo!

Zeesy is Montana’s Champion Child and the CMN hospitals gifted our family - along with 63 fellow champion families representing each of the fifty States, thirteen Canadian provinces/territories and Puerto Rico -  with a trip to Orlando’s Disney World. Perhaps at a later date, when my feet heal, I’ll write about the torturous Shlepping I endured, today I’d like to write about Nemo. I’d never seen “Finding Nemo” before and while watching the musical at Magic Kingdom I was blown away by its many meaningful messages. Although, at times, Nemo gives up on his dad, Marlin’s yearning for Nemo never ceases for a moment. Whatever the challenges, he continues to search until he’s reunited with his beloved son.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Vayakhel-Pekudei, the last in the book of Exodus, we read about the importance of observing Shabbos. Amid discussing the Tabernacle and its glorious construction, G-d pauses to remind us that, despite its importance, Shabbos is a day of rest and even “holy excuses” are no justification for desecrating the Shabbos. For six days (including Sunday) we work away, sweating, laboring, playing the market, making deals, hustling; we work so hard sometimes, we barely find time to squeeze G-d in for the three daily prayers. Yet, every week ends with a Shabbos, a day to focus on our relationship with our Creator; where hopeless Nemo has a chance to realize that Marlin still believes in him.

During the week, Nemo is overwhelmed. The barracuda attacks in the morning, the shark hunts in the afternoon, the fishermen seek dinner in the evening; he’s just trying to survive. Though Marlin is always thinking about Nemo, Nemo doesn’t always have time to reciprocate. Shabbos is reunion day. Whether during Lecha Dodi or Kiddush, during the Torah reading or eating Cholent, the entirety of the Shabbos experience gives us a weekly opportunity to remember that we are eternally bound with Almighty G-d and He awaits our weekly visit. No radio, no internet, no TV, no social media, no markets, no phone calls, no working in the yard, no hunting, no fishing, no skiing; just a day for the figurative Nemo and Marlin, father and child, to unite over the meaning of life that matters to them both, distraction free.

Finding Nemo; within! 

 

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!!!

Holy Cow!

Purim rocked and I’m still on a high. The crowd, atmosphere, entertainment, food, L’Chaim was all great, but if the rabbi was able to lift his feet off the ground and dance, you know pure joy dominated the evening. I’ll make a confession, I attend weddings, Bar Mitzvah’s, Simchat Torah Hakafot and even Torah inaugurations, I almost never dance with vigor. Yes, I circle the Bimah or walk the dance circle, but to really get my heart pumping, to Shvitz, I need to be in a state of pure ecstasy. Quincy gave me the Purim push and we were off and the joy shook my soul.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we read about the infamous Golden Calf. Just after the giving the Torah, with the “mentoring” of the exodus tag along “riffraff”, the Jewish people, with sorcery, created a new type of god in the image of a calf (Hindu’s who honor cows, must have not read the rest of the story :)). No it doesn’t make sense, but humanity is always susceptible to brainwashing and deceit, especially when they are vulnerable. So the enthusiastic idolaters danced in celebration around their new invention and when Moses, descending the mountain, saw this, he broke the tablets. You see, happiness and dancing doesn’t always equal purity and joy. Superficiality can certainly create the allusion of happiness and peacefulness, but it’s a false experience and when the ulterior motives fall away, so does the happiness.

On Purim we danced for no other reason than the fact that we are Jewish, and that is eternal. We didn’t dance because of what we have and what we own, we danced because of who we are. Take a moment to think about the gift of life, being a beloved child of G-d and you too will be joyous. For a moment, don’t think about your deficit in the bank, your unemployment dilemma, the challenges with your children’s health, the impending snowstorm which is out of your control; just dance, purely, for all that you are. It’s not always easy, but Purim reminded me that joy is not circumstantial, it’s inherit.

Don’t dance over frivolity; dance like you don’t care!

 

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!!!

Can I get an Amen?

On Tuesday, while driving up to Helena to give the invocation at the State Legislature , I was pondering the words in my prayer book “Look from heaven and behold how we have become an object of scorn and derision among the nations; we are considered as sheep led to the slaughter, to be killed and annihilated, to be tortured and humiliated. Nevertheless, we have not forgotten Your name; we implore You, do not forget us “. I’ve read these words, prayed these words, and even sung these words, for three decades, but this time it really impacted me.

This Sunday we will celebrate the holiday of Purim . Its story is an exquisite tapestry, woven together by many colorful threads of Divinity and selflessness. The Scroll of Esther is a testimony to Jewry’s soul: A gentile king “validates” the Jew with an invitation to “his” royal feast. We accept, eat Treif food, drink idolatrous wine, mingle inappropriately and disregard Mordechai, the annoying religious fellow, who begs us to stick with G-d.  Sadly, we – in our recurring Jewish theme - thought assimilation was the key to survival and Haman, the anti-Semite, reminded us that bacon and eggs doesn’t make you less Jewish and when he comes for the Jew, he’s coming for ALL of them.

Yet, despite our spiritual failure, in our moment of truth realizing that “we are going to be murdered by the Hamanic thugs”, we don’t write up press releases, we don’t start change.org  campaigns, we don’t try to arm ourselves; we fast, we pray, we get back on G-d’s wagon and allow Him to lead us to victory. Yes, Queen Esther intervened, but she did so after fasting herself and paving the way for G-d’s miracle. G-d’s name doesn’t appear in the Megillah, as it was a miracle clothed in nature, but if you look a bit closer, it speaks for itself: Mordechai led a spiritual revolution that resulted in Haman on the gallows.

In the Selichot prayer recited yesterday on The Fast of Esther we beseech G-d “behold Your vineyard which is trampled, downtrodden; gather our dispersed, and a new song  will be sung to You; sustain them and enliven them through the rebuilding of the Bet Hamikdash. As you have performed awesome deeds in those days, so do wonders for us with an everlasting salvation, that we may find before You atonement and consolation, Almighty King who sits on the throne of mercy”

Can I get an Amen?  Amen V’Amen!

 

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!!!

Sinai Lumber!

I never heard of "Rare Disease Day" before Tuesday, but I was glad the President commemorated it during the State of the Union address with a real fighter, Megan Crowley, in the audience. Megan was diagnosed with Pompe Disease, when she was fifteen months old. She was not expected to live very long. Megan's dad fought with everything he had to save the life of his precious daughter and helped develop the drug that saved Megan's life. Today she is twenty years old - and a sophomore in college. 

Compassion for those who need it most is the bedrock of humanity.

In this week's Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the construction of the Tabernacle, G-d's home in the desert. The Jews are instructed to erect beams made of pine wood, originating from trees, that Jacob planted generations earlier in Egypt, and which were shlepped out during the Exodus. Yet, one wonders, where did they find the miraculous bending wood that was used as the middle rod connecting all forty eight beams? Targum Yonasan explains that Abraham planted trees near his Beersheba homestead, allowing him to wine and dine his guests beneath the shade and not in the scorching heat. The lumber of those trees of kindness, made its way to the redeemed Jews and were used to hold the beams together.

The tabernacle was standing on the firm foundation of kindness. 

It's simple: All the spirituality in the world - the alter, the Menorah, the show bread, the Holy of Holies, the ark of the covenant, the light exuding from this locale - were all dependent on simple acts of kindness. Without a deep love for humanity and tangible acts of giving, we lack the essence of what G-d and His Torah are all about. As Zeesy's father I am grateful for the kindness that is embedded in our society. I am grateful to the 
Children's Miracle NetworkShodair HospitalYaldei Shluchei HaRebbe and The Rebbe's Partnership Foundation, as well as all the individuals, who show Zeesy kindness and unadulterated love.

In the words of a wise soul "our days are happier when we give people a bit of our hearts better than a piece of our minds"!

 

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!!!

Thieves Have Feelings!

It seems like even children are political these days. So on Presidents Day, I was answering my seven year old Chaya’s political questions, including the difference between republicans and democrats, when she asked “Aba which one are we?”. I thought for a moment and said “Chaya, Mommy and I are neither. We vote based on the character of the person not their party affiliation. There are good people on all sides”. My response reminded me of President Lincoln’s famous statement “A house divided against itself cannot stand -- I believe this government cannot endure permanently half slave and half free”.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read about the laws of thievery. G-d says “If a man steals a bull or a lamb and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five cattle for the bull or four sheep for the lamb.” Why less for a lamb than an ox? Rashi quotes the Talmud in teaching “The Omnipresent was considerate of people’s honor. For a bull, which walks with its own feet, and the thief was not disgraced by carrying it on his shoulder, he pays fivefold. For a lamb, which he the thief carries on his shoulder, he pays only fourfold because he was disgraced by it”. Although we are talking about a disgraceful thief parading around with someone else’s lamb, nevertheless, we do need to take into consideration the humanity of the thief and humiliation which he underwent in the stealing process.

Every human being is created in G-d’s image and is deserving of dignity. In our current climate we often shame, attack, ridicule and invalidate those who disagree with us. We go after their family, their friends, their grandmother, their college professor and even their pet cat, and we do so un-relentlessly. It’s not cool, it’s not passionate, it’s not free speech; it’s simply cruel and undignified.  We could disagree, but must do so like Hillel and Shamai, like Hamilton and Madison, like Curtis and Kuby, with respect, honor and poise.

G-d sees the dignity behind the thief’s self-degradation, so should we!

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!!!

Can you spare some change?

Human nature includes a healthy dose of perplexity; so, last week, when a fellow Jew said “rabbi would you be cool learning with me”, I was delighted to start a weekly session with him, studying Maimonides’ “Guide to the Perplexed”.  What fascinated me was not his request to learn, I get that all the time, but the fact that he actually showed up. Talk is cheap, sometimes even free; people want to do a lot of good things and we happily share our favorite cause, in bumper sticker form, for all to see, but are we ready “Arainlaigen De Finger in Kalte Vasser – to dip our finger into cold water, i.e. doing something practical about the things that matter to us? Often, we are not.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we read about Sir Jethro, the convert of all time. He’s a fascinating figure: He was advisor to Pharaoh, lost his job after advising the king not to harm the Jews, leaves Egypt to settle in Midian where he’s appointed chief idolater and his daughter Tzipporah eventually marries Moses. When the Jews are finally liberated from Egypt, he hears about the splitting of the sea and the victory over Amalek and he happily joins the Jewish bandwagon. That was Jethro, a man of action, he heard about G-d’s miraculous intervention with the Jews and he decided that he’s all in.

The Moabites, Edomites, Philistines and so many others heard the same news as Jethro, they feared the Jews, they were concerned about their G-dly successes, but they weren’t ready to change. How often do we hear a good idea, something that could help our spiritual, physical, emotional or mental health, and we say “That’s sounds great”, and then move on with our day without making the changes necessary. It is said “we cannot become what we want, by remaining what we are”. Change isn’t easy, isn’t simple and does not even include any instant gratification, but, like Jethro, the fruits of our positive labor, our healthy change, are reaped for thousands of years.

In the words of Nelson Mandela “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”!

 

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!!!

Halftime Show with Moses!

At the risk of sounding sacrilegious, I must admit, I am no sports fan. Yes, I’m from New York, capitol to many sports and diehard fans, but for me, the futile game of “elimination” that we played during recess at Yeshiva, meant more than the Knicks, Giants or Rangers. Yet, even I was impressed, if not inspired, by Brady and his fellow New England Patriots coming back to life and winning the Super Bowl. The 21-3 score at halftime was not a good sign for the patriots, but one must never give up, march forward with conviction and comebacks are possible.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about Jewry crossing the Red Sea. It was halftime for them and all seemed lost. They were halfway between Egypt and Sinai, but with a sea in front of them and Egyptian murderers behind them, death seemed imminent. Some said “we’re done, let’s give up”, others said “let’s pray to G-d”, some said “let’s jump into the sea and die, better than a return to enslavement” and yet others said “let's fight the Egyptians”. There was one man, one spiritual Brady, who said “it’s not all lost, we can’t take our eye off the ball, off the Vince Lombardi Trophy, and we can win this game”. That man wasn’t Moses, Aaron or Pinchas; it was Nachshon, who marched into the sea and it was at that moment that G-d split it.

Tonight we celebrate Tu B’Shvat, the New Years of Trees. We have lots to learn from trees, including the importance of never giving up. Fruit falls, leaves blow away, branches occasionally detach, but the root stays strong and every spring starts producing again. It doesn’t Kvetch about its sad fruitless winter, it doesn’t whine about the storms it endures; it is cognizant of how unique it is, how much life, oxygen and fruit it gives the world and marches forward to the tune of growth. Nachson wasn’t perfect and either is Brady, but like trees, they both utilize their gift of life to ignore the statistics and stick to their guns.

Being down at halftime, doesn’t mean you can’t win the game!

 

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!!!

Welcome to Paradise!

Recently, a dear friend gifted me a book entitled “Yiddish Wisdom – Yiddishe Chochma”. In it there is a saying “Gan Eden Un Gehenom Ken Men Baideh Hoben Oif Der Velt”, meaning: “Heaven and hell can both be had in this world”. It brought to mind memorable moment that transpired six years ago. My mom’s only sister, Kraindy, brought a therapist to see her, a short time before her passing. The therapist said to mom “Mrs. Bruk you’re going to go straight to heaven”. My mother being a sharpshooting New Yorker said “How the heck do you know?” to which she responded “because you’ve been to hell already”. My mother really liked her answer.

Unlike my mom, sometimes we choose whether to live in heaven or hell.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we’re awestruck by the final three plagues and then inspired by the exodus from Egypt. Interestingly, in last week’s portion, when G-d starts the process of redemption, He says “And also, I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant”. The Holy Chasam Sofer, who served as prime rabbinic authority of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, explains that G-d was telling Moses that in addition to the Jews hearing each other’s cries during the anguish of slavery, He, G-d, heard them too. G-d was heartened to see the Jewish brothers and sisters, caring for each other despite their own suffering. You may have your own bondage, your own bitterness, your own tears, but that never stops us from hearing the cry of others, caring for the pain of our fellow human beings.

When a Jew in Tel Aviv can’t hear the cry of his sister in Safed, when a Jewish student in Yale doesn’t care about a brother in Washburn, when we allow our political persuasions to infuse hatred amongst our fellow Jews with whom we disagree, then we are creating chaotic hell on earth. Heaven is a place where tranquility prevails; where we are united enough to care about each other and despite our never-ending differences we still hear the cry of Klal Yisroel whether in Jerusalem, Paris or Whitefish. Paradise is not a destination, but a lifestyle in which we don’t lose our humanity for the sake of our convictions.

Cry no more Jerusalem!

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!!!

Dehumanizing Moses!

Yesterday, as part of my morning studies with the kids, we chatted about the Hebrew birthday of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson of blessed memory, the Rebbe’s mom. Lucky for me, I was able to quickly insert a short JEM film about her life. The kids really enjoyed learning about her journey from Ukraine to Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany, France and later to the United States. While enjoying lunch with Chaya later that day, we talked about how the Rebbe visited his mother every single day, from the day they were reunited in 1947 until her passing in 1964. I find that humanizing our greatest heroes/heroines is what truly endears them to me, and hopefully to my children.

You see in this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, we read about the one, and truly only, Moses. Interestingly, in the midst of Moses’ engagement with the Pharaoh, the Torah breaks to share with us the family lineage of Moses, Aaron and his son Elazar, and then goes back to the Pharaoh saga. Why the commercial message? Why the breakup in story flow? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who is credited with reviving traditional Judaism in Germany, explained that the Torah is humanizing Moses and Aaron. G-d wants us to know that despite the miracles they performed, despite their closeness to G-d, they were first and foremost human beings.

It’s easy, and too common, to turn righteous leaders, Jewish sages and blessed people into super humans, larger than life, but it’s wrong. When it comes to Moses and Aaron, we know their family. They enjoyed a mother, father, wife, sister, children, and second cousins. Yes, Moses was one of a kind, a leader par excellence, a prophet like no other, the Torah teacher of all time and expert plague deliverer, but he was no G-d. The Levi family tree serves as a reminder that humans are capable of reaching amazing spiritual heights.  If your role model is a god, then emulating him/her is impossible, but in our case, Moses is the ideal mentor: A human with high self-expectations.

A noteworthy commercial indeed!

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!!!

A Compassionate Life!

I pulled out of my driveway at 8:00am and returned at 1:30am the next morning. With an amazing delegation of rabbis, we traveled to Helena to thank the Governor, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Whitefish Senator, Flathead Representative for everything our state government has done to combat hateful ideologies (See video & article ). We then traveled up to Whitefish and met with the Chief of Police, where he happily placed a Mezuzah on the busiest door at the station, and then held a private meeting with the Glacier Jewish Community where we heard from Rabbis Francine Green Roston and Allen Secher as well as other members of the Jewish community. It was a crazy day, but emotional, inspirational and insightful.

Yet, despite all the focus on a vocal minority of haters, last night my heart was triggered with an overwhelming love for this country. While sitting at Bozeman’s monthly adoption gathering, where we support each other in this journey, a couple shared with us that they have personally fostered over seventy children and still going strong. My mouth dropped! how much love can one couple possibly share? How much pain and loss can one couple endure when they are constantly getting the call from Child Protective Services “we are coming to get the baby”? How much faith in humanity can one couple exude? Their compassion, just left me, an adoptive father, blown away.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the first in the book of Exodus, we read about the first leader of Jewry. Moses was not chosen by G-d because of his good looks, his communication skills, his intelligence or family connections; on the contrary, he was living on the lam in Midian, had a severe speech impediment and had an older brother who was apparently singled out for leadership. He was chosen because of his compassion. When G-d saw how tenderly he treats his flock of sheep, He said “I want him to shepherd my people”. If Americans, like that foster couple, occasionally forget about their selfish needs and focus on doing good, America has a bright future.

As a wise man from Tibet once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. 

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!!!

Loving Whitefish!

Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” It’s a Torah idea: Darkness is allergic to light. When one is confronted with darkness, be it a white supremacist in Whitefish, a black panther in Philadelphia or an anti-Israel Jew-hating college student at Berkley, we must respond with light. It is with this in mind that we launched The Montana Chumash Project , with the goal of sending a beautiful Chumash to every Jewish family in Montana and the light is on a roll !

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, we read about Jacob’s final seventeen years, and his eventual passing, in Joseph-controlled Egypt. Torah commentators teach that, as seventeen is the numerical value of the word Tov, which means good, that the best of Jacob’s one hundred and forty seven years on earth were those lived in Egypt. How did Jacob ensure he and his family would have the inner strength to remain devoted Jews in the face of the dark Egyptian immorality? "V'es Yehuda sholach lefanav el Yosef l'horos - He sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to prepare. Prepare what? We are taught that Judah was sent to open a place for Torah study, a place of spiritual light that would illuminate the darkness.

Montanans are amazing people, lovers of humanity and, as strong believes in the Second Amendment, they protect their families with love. Yet, protecting yourself from the darkness is only part one; part two is to diminish, and eventually eliminate, the darkness, and that is only done with light. As a country, law enforcement must continue to confront ideologies of hatred and ensure that they don’t turn from thought and speech into action, but as Jews, we must not turn into the very people who hate us, instead, we must fight back in the one arena where they have no power: light.

Shine a little light!

 

 

 

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!!!

Kindness!

Yesterday my siblings and I commemorated Yahrtzait; six years since my mom’s passing. It’s hard, I miss her love, the void is still there.  My mom and kindness were synonymous. She’d care for the 2nd grader, who needed extra love while her parents were divorcing, even though the girl wasn’t in moms class.  She made sure to bring holiday gifts to the nurses and administrators at every doctor’s office we visited. She called parents to share good news about their child, not just the disappointments.  She had the quintessential heart of gold, especially for society’s less fortunate. My mom would’ve Kvelled from the fellow in Bozeman’s Target, who, during Chanukah, graciously paid for the entire Bruk family cart, though we don’t know each other. He hoped Chavie wouldn’t catch him, but she did and he just said “It’s the holiday, I wanted to do something nice for the holiday”.

Kindness is everything.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read about Joseph finally identifying himself to his siblings and their heartwarming reunion. It’s a watershed moment in Jewish history and one that changed the course of our people’s journey. While Joseph was still testing his brothers prior to his admission, the brothers said to each other “Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen, that is why this trouble has come upon us”. They were internally tormented for what they had done to brother Joseph, and now that they risked losing two more, Shimon and Benjamin, those guilty feelings were gushing forth and haunting them.

Rabbi Moshe HaKohen, the 20th century Torah giant of Djerba, Tunisia, explained, that the brothers could forgive themselves for selling Joseph, but they couldn’t handle the thought that “When he begged us”, while Joseph screamed for help, they turned a deaf ear. Jews are intrinsically merciful and kind; cruelty is unnatural for the Jew and they acted cruel. They learned from their mistake and so should we. Jews are to be kind and caring and my mother was exactly that. She didn’t seek to solve world issues or bring world peace, she just tried to help the needy child, the hungry street panhandler and her classmates who needed a friend. She didn’t care what it would look like to others or whether it good for her popularity, if it helped another soul, it made my Yiddishe Mame smile.

Be extra kind, do it for my mom!

 

 

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!!!

Joseph of Montana!

WOW, WOW, WOW! Six days of light! It started Saturday night with a packed crowed downtown for a Havdalah & Menorah lighting ceremony with Senator Steve Daines, on to Sunday where the Yeshiva students visited homes in Three Forks, Manhattan and Belgrade, continuing on Monday with a Chanukah Wonderland at Southgate Mall in Missoula, visits to Montana State Hospital in Warm Springs, Anaconda and Butte and ending with a Menorah lighting at the Livingston Depot, moving on to Tuesday with a Menorah lighting at Rocky Mountain Bank in Billings and a lovely Chanukah Bash at our home with over seventy souls and on to Wednesday with visits to Great Falls and a MAJCO Menorah lighting in Helena with Governor Steve Bullock at the Capitol. This bright week wrapped up so joyfully last night with heartfelt dancing in Brooklyn as former Malmstrom Airman Yehouda Abecassis married his beloved Lieba Bard-Wigdor!

In this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, we read about how lonely/hurt/estranged Joseph transitions from longtime prisoner to viceroy of the Egyptian Empire. It’s a remarkable tale of perseverance and hope. In addition, Joseph remains an unwavering Jew, never forgetting his Hebrew language, his holy roots and his beloved father Jacob, who was back in Israel. Despite living in depraved Egypt, he teaches his sons Efraim and Menashe about their familial heritage and the importance of living a sacred lifestyle. When his brothers show up from Israel, during the middle eastern famine, seeking food, he immediately asks how their father is doing, even before identifying himself to them. Over two decades of separation didn’t extinguish the light of his soul, the connection to his people, as it miraculously continued to glow.

I meet Joseph’s all over Montana.

Chavie and I have been living in Bozeman for almost a decade now, and we constantly see, that, like the Chanukah Menorah, the light of the Jewish soul is bright and increases it brightness every day. For many it’s been years, or even decades, since they last observed certain Mitzvos or went to Shul, “Rabbi I can’t recall the last time I lit Shabbat candles”, yet when delicately reminded of their radiant soul, they experience a genuine resurgence. When you witness a ninety-seven-year-old Holocaust survivor joyfully lighting the Menorah on the same day that a five-year-old dresses up like Judah the Maccabee, you know that Am Yisroel Chai, you know that, like Joseph, we don’t only survive despite the spiritual challenges but the darkness itself incentivizes us to remain strong and create even more light.

“Out of touch”, doesn’t equal “connection lost”!

 

 

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!!!

Role Model of Courage!

It was so special and truly touched my heart. Despite the -24 temperatures outside, forty friends gathered to celebrate my 35th birthday while enjoying a gourmet Shabbat dinner courtesy of Chavie. It was a great start to a Chabad marathon: On Sunday evening, twenty five souls gathered with Pittsburgh Rabbi Shmuly for a Dinner Farbrengen in honor of the 19th of Kislev, Monday and Tuesday were “Keep the fire burning” days, raising over $18,000 in 36 hours for our vital work, Tuesday night the Women’s League gathered for a pre-Chanukah “Painting and Wine” at The Painted Buddha, Thursday we hosted a fun Chanukah pottery event for Jewish kids at Arts on Fire and Chanukah hasn’t even started yet….

I’m asked often: How do you have the energy?

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeishev, the one I read at my Bar Mitzvah, we read about Joseph’s descent into depraved Egypt. During his “employment” at the home of Potiphar, lonely Joseph is seduced by his master’s wife and found himself just moments away from sinning. Instead, in an unquestionable act of defiance, he resists her and, as a result, pays the heavy price of long term imprisonment. Where did he get the inner courage to hold back? Our sages teach that the image of his father Jacob flashed in his mind and it inspired him to resist her. We all need figures to remind us who we are, for Joseph it was his dad and for me it’s my mom, Bubby and Zaidy all of blessed memory and my father Zol Zain Gezunt.

But it’s more.

I was gifted to not only have wonderful parents, grandparents and teachers who I adore, admire and seek to emulate, but I have a Rebbe. When I have a moment of weakness, a day of stress, a gut wrenching experience, it is the Rebbe I see. He’s handing me that dollar, giving me that Tanya, responding to my innocent L’Chaim and giving me a little cup of Kos Shel Bracha wine; it uplifts me. We each need a guide or two, whose love we cherish and whose smile we see when we close our eyes, inspiring us to make the right/holy/moral decision. As we enter the eight days of Chanukah, we must remember that the choice of light over darkness isn’t always easy and a push from a role model, in words or thoughts, goes a long way. 

A Freilichen Chanukah!

 

 

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!!!

Spiritual Hypothermia?

Years ago, my friend Greg from Gardiner, gifted me with a pair of socks that have kept my feet warm even in Montana’s occasional -40 temperatures. As I’ve learned over time, when our feet are kept warm it’s extremely helpful with blood circulation and keeping the body temperature stable. Though feet seem somewhat unimportant in relation to the vital bodily organs, yet because of its flat surface it allows for a good amount of blood flow. I thought a lot about this over the past ten days as we experienced our annual “Ice Age” in Bozeman.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, we read about Dina’s horrific abuse by, and in, Shechem/Nablus. Our sages teach us that Dina, like her mother Leah, was extremely outgoing and were both true socialites. Yet, Chassidus explains this, not as a negative trait G-d forbid, but very positive. Dina saw a bright world, where everyone, including Esau, Shechem and other lowly individuals, has the potential to change their ways. She believed in humanity’s goodness, even when it was at her own expense. She didn’t see negativity and hide; she saw negativity and ran toward it, hoping to transform it.

When a brother/sister needs you, introvertism is not an option.

This Monday world Jewry will celebrate the 19th of Kislev, the liberation of Rav Schneur Zalman of Liadi from czarist imprisonment. He was arrested because, following in the footsteps of his teacher Rav Dovber and the founder of Chassidism Rav Yisroel Baal Shem Tov, he believed that we must reach in and reveal the depth of each soul. We mustn’t see people based on externalities, but rather see them for who they are at the core. They may be Torah ignorant, lacking in Mitzvos observance, they may seem like the feet of our people, the unimportant ones, but without their warmth, without their super functionality, the collective hJewish body can die of spiritual hypothermia.  

Let’s take Dina’s approach; see the best in humanity! 

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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