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Weekly Message

Weekly Message

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It Ain't Easy!

On Wednesday, our family, along with Shoshana’s grammie Sheila, joined together in Judge Rienne McElyea’s courtroom to finalize Shoshana’s adoption. It was a truly special moment; she’s ours forever. Later that evening, as we celebrated with friends, Chavie and I acknowledged that raising a preteen is not always a picnic, but that we wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world. I wished Shoshana a life of happiness, growing to be a Bas Chabad, a girl who lives up to the Lubavitch value system, and be a woman of valor.

It’s not easy, as she was not raised this way, but when there’s a will, there’s a way.  

On Tuesday, we will commemorate the Rebbe’s 23rd Yahrtzait. While I’ve often wondered which of the Rebbe’s life-lessons impacted my life most, this week I figured it out. The greatest malady of western civilization is the need for instant gratification. Everything must be easy; it’s the sacrosanct principle that ensures   Amazon and Brookestone’s existence. The Rebbe taught me that “I don’t have a contract with G-d that all will be easy”. Losing my mom, experiencing infertility, adopting children are not easy to handle. Being a good husband, mentoring a Jewish community, spending time with my children isn’t always easy? But does it have to be? Why?

Korach, the rebel of our Torah portion, wanted something that wasn’t meant to be his. Instead of marveling in his own struggle, he thought he can find inner peace by shifting into another life that was destined for someone else. He failed, because everyone is meant to be themselves. My struggle makes me a better person and your struggle does the same for you. The Rebbe gifted me with the ability to see the light in the struggle, suspending the search for an easy way out. It’s ok to occasionally ask G-d to ease things up, but don’t ask him to give your someone else’s life, as that would just be foolish.

Rebbe I know you miss us, even more than we miss you, but please know that forty-four years of your loving leadership is still inspiring Big Sky Country.

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!!!

Joshua & His Prostitute!

It’s unfortunate, but people often think of themselves as “insignificant” in the world, “inconsequential” in the “bigger picture”. This week, while meeting with Dr. Godfrey Saunders, former beloved principal of Bozeman High School, he shared with me something his mom told him “Son, the universe is like a puzzle. We must place our piece in the precise spot, so that the generations after us, will be able to add their piece to the puzzle”. It’s not about changing all human history, but rather about giving it everything we’ve got to better ourselves and the civilization around us.

In this week’s Haftorah we read about Pinchas and Caleb, two spies who Joshua sent to study the land of Israel just prior to the Jewish people coming home. While lodging, their innkeeper Rachav, who also served as the local prostitute, hid them, thus saving their life from the locals who sought to murder them. In return, they assured her that when the Jews conquer Jericho, she and her family will be saved and indeed that’s what happened. Amazing! A woman who was forced into harlotry at the age of ten, living a life of immorality for forty years, performs an act of kindness for a few hours and is then gifted with life, a conversion to Judaism and the eventual marriage to Joshua himself, meriting grandchildren the likes of Ezekiel and Isiah, Prophets with A+ ratings. 

A powerful moment of good.

We each are endowed by our Creator with choice. The choices we make at every juncture in our day can either be beneficial to our wellbeing, spiritual and physical, or G-d forbid, harmful. We sometimes look at our past and think we are long gone, we occasionally predict our future and believe it is grim, but in truth, our past and future aren’t relevant to the “now”. If we live life in the “now”, we create moments of light, seconds of truth and milliseconds of good, which will affect us positively in ways that we can’t imagine. Don’t be shortsighted or nostalgic; live in the moment and change the world.

Learn from Rachav!

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 & His Trumpets!

Tuesday night was spectacular! When Chavie and I tied the knot eleven years ago, Chana’le was a young eleven-year-old and now she is married to her beloved Shneur. As we danced the night away, I couldn’t help but think about the life that lies ahead for the newlyweds. With G-d’s blessings, they will grow together in their love for each other, raising their future children and together build a home in which Judaism will flourish. A marriage must have G-d as its third partner; it’s the anchor of stability.

In this week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha, Moses is commanded to use his own wealth to fashion two silver trumpets. When the nation traveled, when Moses needed the elders to assemble at the Tabernacle, when bringing Rosh Chodesh and holiday offerings and when going to war, Moses’ trumpets were sounded with jingle variation, depending on the occasion. The verse says “when you enter into battle in your land, against adversaries who attack you, you shall blow a wailing sound on the trumpets. You will then be favorably accounted before The Eternal, your G-d, and be saved from your enemies”. Ibn Ezra explains that the crying sound awakens Jewry to repent and thus invokes G-d’s mercy for deliverance from their enemy.   

As Chana’le and Shneur embark on their new journey together, they too, may encounter adversity. Life has ups and downs, moments of bliss and those of challenge, but their home will be based on “Foundation of Torah and Mitzvot”, a G-dly footing, ensuring that they remain focused and strong, through thick and thin.  Like in Numbers, our Moses, the Rebbe of blessed memory, has gifted each of us, his Chassidim, with “silver trumpets”, guidance for life, that brings inspirational song to our every day, even the tough ones.  Chana’le and Shneur will undoubtedly use the trumpets, not only for themselves, but to uplift all those with whom they interact.

An Everlasting Edifice! 

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 Rollers!

What an amazing Shavuot holiday. With my beloved Aba, his wife Leah, my niece Mushkie, nephew Sholom and the Yeshiva students Leivy and Shaul, in the house, 65 local tribe members spent time at The Shul, with late night learning of Kedushat Levi on Tuesday, Moses, Sushi and Cheesecake on Wednesday and second day Minyan with Yizkor memorial service on Thursday. Our people are holy; don’t ever doubt it. Despite work/school/gorgeous-weather, souls flocked to Shul, choosing G-d over convenience and tradition over modernism. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, the longest in the Five Books of Moses, we read about the Levi family and their work in the Holy Tabernacle. In its midst, seemingly out of place, we are told “Command the children of Israel to banish from the camp all those afflicted with tzara'ath…both male and female you shall banish; you shall send them outside the camp, and they not defile their camps, in which I dwell among them.” Reb Moshe Alschich, Safed’s 16th century Torah giant, explains that one may have thought that the Divine presence only dwelled in the first two encampments around the Tabernacle, only residing amongst the Kohen/Priestly and Levite families, the Torah therefore informs us that those plagued with temporary impurity must leave all three encampments, as the Divine presence rests amongst the simple Israelites as well.

So often we lose touch, lose our connection and sometimes even fall into despair, thinking that we aren’t important. True, there are different spiritual experiences and the Israelite's and Aaron’s family interacted with the Divine differently, but we must always remember that the Divine dwells with every one of us 24/7. It’s convenient to make G-d seem distant, thus lowering the expectations of our service, but that is improper. Right here in beautiful Bozeman, we are fully capable of being holy, feeling holy and acting holy whether on Shavuot or a simple Tuesday afternoon. We mustn’t underestimate our holiness; we’ve got the ability to touch the Divine.

Holy, Holy, Holy!!!

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!!!

My Letter to G-d!

Dearest Creator,

I am putting pen to paper to express to You my deep sense of gratitude. I know You hear me praying three times each day, I know You see me studying Torah with anyone who wants to learn its depth, I know You care for my family and community, but today I want to give You a public shout out to thank You for sharing Your Torah.

Since I can remember, Your Torah, its verses, stories, commandments, commentary and life lessons have been a part of my life. My parents imbued me with a love for its richness and I try to do the same with my four children. My Rebbe of blessed memory showed me, almost every time we saw each other, how it’s the “Beste Sechora”, the most precious of life’s commodities. My Zayde would sip tea and share with me his experience of studying it while in Warsaw, Postov, Kobe and Shanghai, during the horrific era of World War Two.

Yet, despite my connection to it, I guess I didn’t really appreciate it.

Over the past few years, as I watch a world in turmoil both physically and spiritually, while I counsel so many souls seeking nurturing and tradition, as I raise my children in a world that seeks to take away their innocence at every opportunity, I have come to deeply cherish Your gifted Torah. No, I don’t always understand everything You command, I don’t always appreciate the nuances of every law and custom, I don’t always come through for You exactly as You request of me, but I have garnered such a deep admiration for the Torah.

Almighty G-d! I am thankful, for as most of humanity is seeking, we have answers. While the world is at times darkened, we always have a bright light. When plagued with uncertainty, we can have clarity; we just need to open the instruction manual You gave us. You didn’t have to, there are times, I suppose, you wonder why You did, but I assure You Master of the Universe, Your people are learning it more and more and connecting with its message in ways that would make Your servant Moses proud. We aren’t perfect and we don’t always see the eternal light, but we never lose hope, because we have You in our lives, You as embedded in Your holy scripture.

This may sound fluffy and unrealistic, but I tell You from the depth of my heart, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t be the person I am, without Your Torah’s guidance, wisdom and G-dliness. I thank You for the gift that keeps on giving and for the moment of Sinai that still reverberates the world over, including in our home state of Montana.

3,329 years ago, You descended onto a mountain in the desert to present us with 613 Mitzvos, we accepted, we rejoiced and are still hanging on to it and will be for all eternity.

When You, dear L-rd, peek over the Bridger’s this Wednesday and see Jews gathered at The Shul of Bozeman to hear the Ten Commandments and celebrate with Sushi and Cheesecake, You will smile, because You will be reminded of why You chose us, the unbreakable Jewish souls, to be Your light onto the nations.

Happy Shavuot,

Your Montanan salesman,

Chaim

Hemingway was right!

On Sunday, with a dry break from the rain/snow; fifty of us gathered at The Shul yard to celebrate Lag B’Omer & Mother’s Day (See Pictures). We reflected on the lives of two exceptional sages: Rav Akivah and his student Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. While they had different life experiences, they each contributed true love to the world. Rav Akivah personified the essence of Ahavat Yisroel, the unity of our people and a boundless love of humanity, while Rav Shimon tapped into the the essence of Ahavat HaTorah, a love for Torah and all its four dimensions, including the mystical. These loves, coupled with a subsequent love for our Creator, gave them constant trust in G-d and an incessant hope for a better tomorrow.

This week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, discusses the Sabbatical year. After six labor-intense years of agricultural work in the Holy Land, G-d commands that the seventh year be toil-free. The land is considered ownerless, open to all for sustenance, with no sowing, plowing, watering or any other field related dealings permitted. G-d forewarns “and if you should say, "What will we eat in the seventh year? We will not sow, and we will not gather in our produce!"Know then, that I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years.”

In G-d We Trust.

The holy Rebbe, Reb Meilach of Lizhensk explains that the flow of blessing from G-d to His people is naturally uninterrupted, unless of course, we choose to stop the current. The moment a Jew pauses and says “What will we eat in the seventh year”, the question in itself creates an obstruction in the energy flow that was heading our way. In turn Hashem needs to restart the engine of blessing “I will command my blessing”. Why disturb G-d, asks Reb Meilach, with our foolish trust issues, if we can just let Him do what’s best for us as He always does?. As I read these powerful words, I started imagining what G-d is probably saying when I reach out: “Oh, Chaim, that Bozeman Rabbi, is questioning me again, why doesn’t he just trust me? I’ve always come through for him? Oh well, I guess I can push more blessings his way, but I wish he wasn’t so difficult and doubtful.

Hemingway wrote “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. G-d would like that too! 

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!!!

Kid Insurance!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with a sharp ninety-six-year-old Jew, Al “Elya” Zelver. I spent over an hour listening to his amazing story; he grew up in California to Polish/Romanian parents, enlisted in the service, served in the China Burma India Theater, Japan and a bit in Korea and is currently writing his memoirs. He mentioned that he once asked his “agnostic” father why he donated $200 annually, a large sum in the 30’s, to a local Synagogue, even though he never goes and doesn’t believe? To which his dad responded, “It’s like insurance, you never know when you may need it”.

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, commences with the eternal words “And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: Let none of you defile himself for a dead person among his people”. Rashi, quoting from the Talmud, comments “This double expression comes to admonish the adult Kohanim to be responsible for the minors that they must not contaminate them”.Interestingly, the Rebbe would often emphasize that the Hebrew word Rashi uses for “admonish” is "Lehazhir", which also means "to illuminate", a healthier method of education. While we can have certain expectations from our children, the onus is on us, the adults/parents to be their educators, even at the risk of them de-friending us. Every word we say, every expression we show, every movement we make, is part of their education. They internalize it and that’s on us. 

School teachers are an amazing gift to our society and need to be treated as such. I believe they are too often underpaid, underrecognized and underappreciated. Yet, as my Bubbe Esther said to me more than once “If a child doesn’t have a healthy home, a stable home, it will be so much harder for the Yeshiva (Jewish high school) and Mashpia (mentor/teacher) to make them a Mentsch”. In the words of President Reagan “Our leaders must remember that education doesn't begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington. It doesn't even begin with state or local officials. Education begins in the home, where it is a parental right and responsibility.”

Children are insured by parents!

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!!!

How's your vision?

I’ve read that “children and drunks always speak the truth”. Menny turned four this week and Chavie asked him what he’d like for his birthday. His response was epic, spoken like a native Montanan, straight from the heart “I want to go on a birthday hike with the whole family, but Mommy, you can't come because you have to cook my cake”. Indeed, on Sunday morning, after Mishna and Mysticism, we headed over to Pete’s Hill where he rode his bike and the rest of us hiked along. It was special and I hope we can hike our valley a lot more this summer.

Let’s talk truth.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, which is also the Yom Kippur reading, we are commanded “Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do, and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do, and you shall not follow their statutes.” The holy Sfas Emes of Gur teaches that this is a general rule: “Don’t eat like them, sleep like them, talk like them, live like them. Sometimes we learn truths by studying the liar”. The culture of Egypt, Canaan and other unholy societies are attractive, impressive and even seductive, but should remain absolutely foreign to the Jew.

This is perhaps why the verse states “In which you dwelled”. It’s a subtle aide-mémoire to Jewry, when they feel the urge to follow the “Egyptians”, the longing to be “like everyone else”; they should remember that the perversion, they witnessed, didn’t last, as even the mighty Egyptian Empire, disbanded into oblivion.  Yes, choosing to be faithful to G-d, to humanity, to our wives and children, to our business partners, isn’t always easy, but it ends well. My Bubbe Esther always told me “You pay cheap, you get cheap”. When you invest in a healthy life, it pays off, with benefits that are reaped for generations.

Don’t be shortsighted!

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!!!

Mouthwash for the Soul!

News junkies like me know that when you hear “Breaking News”, “Just in”, “We are first to report” the information that follows is overwhelmingly negative. Today I want to share with you good news all of which took place this past week: Local women gathered for Torah & Tea with Chavie, a dear friend had a cancerous tumor surgically removed and is doing great, I gave a Judaism crash course to group of students from Heritage Christian School, Shoshana (formally Courtney) came in third place for the entire region in her 200 meter dash at Track, a solid group, including a strong showing from the Crow Nation, gathered at a Billings luncheon in support of Israel and finally three new-to-Bozeman Jewish families reached out about getting more involved.

There is plenty of good news out there.

In this week’s double Torah portion Tazria-Metzora, we read about the leper. No, it wasn’t the modern medical ailment of leprosy, as the biblical break out plagued the persons clothing and the walls of their home, but, like leprosy, it was extremely harsh on the recipient’s skin. Why? Why does G-d bring a terrible plague on an individual? Why does the person need to be ousted from the Camp of Israel until they’re purified? It’s not like it’s contagious? Judaism teaches that speaking negatively about others was a prime cause for this horrible experience. If you divide society, shame and isolate others, with gossip, slander and negative talk, you need to have alone time, away from society, so you “enjoy” a taste of your own medicine.

It’s insane that there are members of our tribe, Jewish brothers and sisters, who wake up every day with the intention to smear others within. What they fail to realize is that this behavior will only turn themselves into lepers, outcasts, who eventually will be removed from the camp of Israel. How long do you think it will take until people say, “I don’t want to hang out with a gossiper?” “I don’t want to hear this garbage”? “Show me light, love, depth and not just fear, hate and darkness” “Enough negativity”! The world is yearning for positivity, why not be bearer of good news?  Give your friends and family an ultimatum: either we talk honorably about others or go talk to someone else!

Forever One!

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!!!

Jealous of a Hermit?

With a beautiful Passover in the rear-view mirror, I finally had a few moments to read “The Stranger in the Woods – The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” authored by my friend Michael Finkel.  I have to admit, that while reading, I felt a bit jealous at times, not because I want to live alone in the woods for twenty seven years, but because there is something so sacred about silence. As a rabbi, sermonizing, listening, teaching and conversing is a constant; having a few moments of silence, both internally and externally, sounds amazing.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, we read about the death of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron’s four sons. They entered the Tabernacle, into the Holy of Holies, either intoxicated or in elated spiritual ecstasy, and tragically died as a result. Aaron listens to his younger brother Moses extolling their unique virtue, and "Aaron is silent". He doesn't argue with Moses, doesn't defend or debate G-d's actions, doesn't eulogize his beloved sons, he's just silent. The pain was so deep, the hurt so raw and the questions so numerous, that Aaron chose silence and internalization during that period of grief.

In the 80's the Rebbe of Blessed Memory worked tirelessly to have a Moment of Silence introduced into the US public school system. Thirty or sixty seconds each day, where a child can think/meditate about their Creator and the amazing creation, would do wonders for our children and subsequently our society. I for one, now more than ever, appreciate the gift of silence. We shouldn't be hermits, as societal interaction is vital for serving G-d, but an occasional pause to ponder instead of yapping, would do wonders for our well-being.

In the words of Ausonius: He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak!

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!!!

What I Will Answer My Children

 Monday night I will enjoy one of the most precious moments of fatherhood. My four children will turn to me and ask the Ma Nishtana. They will certainly ask the traditional four questions about the food and set up of the Passover Seder meal, but the theme of all the questions is one: Why are we behaving different? Why are we different? Jewish children, whether in 1492 Spain, 1941 Poland or 2017 Helena ask their father, as well as their Father in Heaven, Ma Nishtana.

I will answer my children with the words of the Haggadah “Avadim Hayinu – we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and G-d redeemed us from there…”. I will tell my children, all of our Jewish children, that we are unique because our experience as Jews is fundamentally different. We are a people who have endured so much sorrow, so much tribulation and so much Jew hatred, and yet, we are free. Not only have we been freed from the physical abuse of Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, Ukraine and Germany, but we are a people that are internally free; free to fight on, free to remain connected to our G-d, free to brighten the world despite all odds.

I will remind my sweet children that our nation started, like the Seder, with Kadesh, being sanctified by G-d at Sinai. Yet as time passed, we ended up, like the Matzah, Yachatz, broken to many pieces, but eventually, have arrived at Shulchan Orech, a grandiose celebratory feast, each and every time. When we experience tough moments, collectively and individually, let’s remember that it ends well. The brisket – or for my vegan friends: the tofu – is on the menu, but it may not melt in our mouths until we’ve endured salt water, bread of affliction and bitter herbs. As my children fall asleep Monday night, way passed their bedtime, they will know the story of the Jew, not only the story of the past, but indeed of the present and future.

A Zissen Pesach!

 

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 Gifts of Imperfection!

I’ve been reading “the gifts of imperfection” and it’s got me thinking. Words like vulnerability, shame, belonging and fitting-in have been swirling in my head. I chatted with Chavie about how hard it is for me to be vulnerable, to admit imperfection, to recognize I can’t tackle everything alone. It’s against my “Bruk” gene which demands bottling it all up inside and presenting machoness. In truth, it’s only flawed humans who think they must be perfect.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the first in the book of Leviticus, we read about the Temple offerings. G-d demands that the wealthy, poor and broke each bring a unique type of offering. Whether an expensive animal, a bird or a handful of flour; it’s your heart that matters most, not your financial capabilities. It’s ok to show up at the Temple in a vulnerable state, penniless and perhaps flawed, as your humanity doesn’t diminish your status in the eyes of G-d or man, but actually shows your healthy character. We’re not on show and G-d doesn’t want our show, He wants us imperfect beings who are trying to be better.

I asked my buddy Stu this week, why were the ten tribes lost when the Assyrians dispelled them from Israel? Answer: there was no Rebbe who sent loving couples to inspire and uplift the exiled Jews wherever their journey took them. In 1945 the Rebbe saw a world of vulnerable Jews and started a revolution to ensure that their vulnerability doesn’t shame them away from their faith and people, but encourages them to come together in their current state, non-judgmentally, to learn, celebrate and grow. It for this reason, that despite his passing in 1994, on Friday, the 11th of Nissan we will celebrate and toast L’Chaim for the Rebbe’s birthday. He’s the gift that keeps giving to the Jewish people.

Angels are perfect; humans are a work in progress!  

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!!!

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!!!

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