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Weekly Message

Weekly Message

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Isaiah Envisions a Museum!

I guess you can call it good planning on my part; hiking the M for the very first time on Sunday, meeting amazing trekkers along the way. It allowed me to see how wonderful humanity truly is, despite the horrifying news that we received from Charlottesville after Shabbos. It’s hard to believe the word Nazi is still associated with living beings, it’s even harder to accept that there are those who hate others based on their skin color, religion, lifestyle or philosophical outlook. It is no coincidence that, although Chavie has been meticulously planning this launch since January, it was the week of August 14 that was chosen to announce the campaign to build The Holocaust Museum of Montana.

Never Again, means Never Again; is that so hard to comprehend?

Tonight, is Shabbos Mevarchim, in which we bless the upcoming month of Elul. It is during this month, during the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, that we take stock of our past year, we seek to return to our Creator with healthy introspection, small positive changes and unbridled enthusiasm to rock on into the New Year. In the Haftorah that we’ll read in Shul from our Prophet Isaiah, we are consoled “O poor tempestuous one, who was not consoled, behold I will set your stones with carbuncle, and I will lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will make your windows of jasper and your gates of carbuncle stones, and all your border of precious stones. And all your children shall be disciples of the Lord, and your children's peace shall increase. With righteousness shall you be established, go far away from oppression, for you shall not fear, and from ruin, for it will not come near you. Behold, the one with whom I am not, shall fear, whoever mobilizes against you shall defect to you”.

We, the Jewish community, must not fall into the trap of fighting hatred with even more hatred. We must do everything in our power to uproot Nazism from these United States, but at the same time, we must ask ourselves, privately, am I REALLY helping America? Am I contributing love and peace to our country or am I, perhaps, doing the exact opposite? Elul, is days away, and it’s time to converse with our souls. I’m not a constitutional lawyer and I don’t understand exactly what free speech is and what it isn’t, but I do know how Chaim Bruk could choose to speak, I do know how Chaim Bruk can choose to see things, I do know how Chaim Bruk can be a better person. If I shine light, you shine light and everyone else shines light, the darkness will have a rough time and that is the goal.

Think it’s impossible? Daryl David disagrees!

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 Journey Through Sturgis!

Back in July, we took the quick three-day route to San Antonio, driving through Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. But, this week, on the way home, we chose the longer route, through the heartland, lodging in Oklahoma City, Kearney, Nebraska and in, “Real America Up Close”, Rapid City, South Dakota.  The Sunshine State wowed me to the core, as we visited the magnificent Badlands, were mildly entertained at Wall Drug and totally moved by the images of the “Founder”, “Expansionist”, “Conservationist” and “Uniter” carved into Mount Rushmore. Our road-trip coincided with Sturgis, so I had the opportunity to observe hundreds of thousands of, mostly helmetless, bikers and chitchatted with a few of them along the way.

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we read about the Levite family. Moses tells the Jewish people that “at that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him, and to bless in His Name, to this day”. Interestingly, beloved 12th century, Maimonides taught that “Not only the tribe of Levi, but any man of all the inhabitants of the earth, whose spirit has moved him and whose mind has given him to understand to set himself aside to stand before Gd to serve Him, to worship Him, to know Gd and walk justly as Gd has created him…this man has become sanctified, a holy of holies, and Gd shall be his portion and his lot forever….”. Yes, the Levite family was gifted to serve in the Tabernacle and Holy Temple, but don’t feel dejected, don’t feel turned off; being in service and of service is available to all those that choose to walk a just path with G-d.

I gazed at the unapologetic bikers. They have their own lingo, unique clothing, music/musicians they love and their very own biker code. I’m not a biker, so I don’t “get” it all, but it seems to work well for their biker family. They seem proud of their membership in the biker community, but don’t force that lifestyle on non-bikers.  It got me thinking: so often Jews apologize. Whether for Yarmulkes, Kosher food selections, Shabbos observance, Yom Kippur fasting, modesty, and on and on, we feel the need to defend our holy choices. That has gotta stop: We are tribesman, holy bikers, Levites by choice, we have a Sinai code, are a family like non-other and are on a lifelong journey to our own Sturgis, AKA Jerusalem. It’s our Jewish style, and there isn’t anything about it worthy of an apology.

Learn from the bikers: have a healthy Jew-code! 

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!!!

Rob in 6C!

On Tisha B’Av, my heart swelled with admiration. Fifteen Jews coming together in prayer, making Minyan in Bozeman on our national day of mourning, moved me deeply. You see, just a week earlier, I met Rob: I boarded my Sky West flight from SLC to BZN.  I was seated in 6D listening to Jackie Mason (no music during the nine days) and the fellow in 6C says matter-a-factly “Hmm, a Yarmulke”. He then wondered about Jewish life in Bozeman and asked, “Do you make Minyan?”. I was flabbergasted. Most people ask, “how many Jews live in Bozeman?”, “how do you get Kosher food?”, “where do your kids go to school?”, “How did you choose Bozeman or was it chosen for you?”, but never in 10+ years has a local Yid asked me that ancient, but powerful, question “Do you make Minyan?”.

My new friend Rob, or Reuven, will be helping us make Minyan soon enough.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etechanan, Moses reminds Jewry that they “are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth”. While Tevye on fiddler-on-the-roof humored us about “G-d choosing someone else once in a while”, we are, indeed, a unique nation, chosen to observe six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, thus shining light unto, a somewhat dark, world. Jews aren’t perfect; we don’t always get along with each other, we don’t always follow G-d’s instruction manual and don’t always sanctify G-d’s name, but we are gifted with unbeatable souls, that, come-what-may, are on fire for Judaism.

Communities are often judged by membership, crowd size, financial stability and other measurements of so-called success, but not In Montana. Ten years out west has taught me that the real gage of a healthy community is bright souls feeling connected to their heritage, their people and to their G-d. We do “make Minyan” more often than not, but the question itself is just as powerful as the actual Minyan, because it’s a sign of our connection. Our community is comprised of treasured Jews thirsting for authentic Judaism, who reach out, whenever they can, to quench their thirst through Minyan, Mikvah, Torah study or just a nice Shabbos dinner.

I am honored live amongst such inspiring Jews!

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!!!

Rob in 6C!

On Tisha B’Av, my heart swelled with admiration. Fifteen Jews coming together in prayer, making Minyan in Bozeman on our national day of mourning, moved me deeply. You see, just a week earlier, I met Rob: I boarded my Sky West flight from SLC to BZN.  I was seated in 6D listening to Jackie Mason (no music during the nine days) and the fellow in 6C says matter-a-factly “Hmm, a Yarmulke”. He then wondered about Jewish life in Bozeman and asked, “Do you make Minyan?”. I was flabbergasted. Most people ask, “how many Jews live in Bozeman?”, “how do you get Kosher food?”, “where do your kids go to school?”, “How did you choose Bozeman or was it chosen for you?”, but never in 10+ years has a local Yid asked me that ancient, but powerful, question “Do you make Minyan?”.

My new friend Rob, or Reuven, will be helping us make Minyan soon enough.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etechanan, Moses reminds Jewry that they “are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth”. While Tevye on fiddler-on-the-roof humored us about “G-d choosing someone else once in a while”, we are, indeed, a unique nation, chosen to observe six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, thus shining light unto, a somewhat dark, world. Jews aren’t perfect; we don’t always get along with each other, we don’t always follow G-d’s instruction manual and don’t always sanctify G-d’s name, but we are gifted with unbeatable souls, that, come-what-may, are on fire for Judaism.

Communities are often judged by membership, crowd size, financial stability and other measurements of so-called success, but not In Montana. Ten years out west has taught me that the real gage of a healthy community is bright souls feeling connected to their heritage, their people and to their G-d. We do “make Minyan” more often than not, but the question itself is just as powerful as the actual Minyan, because it’s a sign of our connection. Our community is comprised of treasured Jews thirsting for authentic Judaism, who reach out, whenever they can, to quench their thirst through Minyan, Mikvah, Torah study or just a nice Shabbos dinner.

I am honored live amongst such inspiring Jews!

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!!!

Cry no more Yerushalayim!

I would love to ignore the horrible news, but I can’t. I’d rather talk about much happier things, there are plenty, but I can’t.  I can’t ignore the Savta (grandma) who watched her husband, son and daughter slaughtered before her eyes as she barely survived her injuries. I can’t ignore the mother holding the door knob tightly as she protected her five young kids, while listening to her husband scream before he breathed his last breath. I can’t ignore the arab world claiming victimhood over metal-detectors, after two of their very own cold bloodedly murdered two Druze police officers. I’d like to go back to my Bozeman bubble and say “we just need peace”, I’d like to think I can solve this issue by placing a “Coexist” bumper sticker on the back of my Subaru, but in truth, what we really need is our arab neighbors to love and teach life as much as we do.

In Israel, Mickey Mouse hangs out with Donald Duck and Minnie, in Gaza he sings about using his AK-47 .

For close to two thousand years, since being tortured, humiliated and exiled by the Romans, we’ve never stopped yearning. The Jews in Israel and abroad have been praying thrice daily “May our eyes see Your merciful return to Tzion.”, every Shabbos we pray, sometimes in heartwarming song,  “From your place, our King, may You appear, and reign over us, for we are waiting for You….May You be exalted and sanctified within Your city Jerusalem, generation after generation, and for all eternity” and we alwayspray towards our holy Jerusalem, no matter where we are in the world, while Muslims pray towards Mecca, their holiest site, even when they’re kneeling on the Temple Mount.

Tuesday is Tisha B’Av, our national day of mourning, and in addition to fasting, we must have a collective moment of honesty. Jews are peaceful, we don’t want any person in the world to suffer, including Jews. We need to say the truth - even if a friend or two will disown you - that the Holy Land of Eretz Yisroel was, and will always be, our home. Whether Canaan, Israel, Palestine or Palestina, we’ve lived on its holy soil since Abraham’s days and that will never change. My paternal grandparents were Palestinian, as they lived under Ottoman and British rule in Palestine way before 1948 and our people will continue living there way past 2048! Political persuasions aside, we can, and should, have healthy debates about Israeli government policy, but we can’t, and should never, debate our right to be home.

Cry no more Yerushalayim!

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!!!

Bad Habits!

The three of them arrived Tuesday morning to replace the carpet. They seemed real nice but their fascination with Judaism was not what I expected. We spoke about G-d, faith, New York, Kosher and the picture of the Rebbe on the wall. They wanted to know who he was and they loved learning about his life. Before they headed home for the night, I gifted each of them with  Seeds of Wisdom. They were touched and I know they will enjoy its meaningful nuggets.

In this weeks’s double Torah portion, Matot-Massei, we read about koshering our non-kosher utensils. When making a mistake in the kitchen, there is usually a remedy – either through boiling water or blowtorching – to re-kosher the utensil. In life, it’s very much the same. We are naturally Kosher, we are pure, but at times, by mistake – either a behavioral mistake or the mistake of thinking our choices don’t matter to G-d when they clearly do – we become impure, temporarily invalidating the Kosherness of our vessel. Yet, that doesn’t mean we are a lost cause, rather, it means we need to find the right path for spiritual realignment, which isn’t always easy, but is almost always doable.

In a “classic Rebbe moment”, the author of the aforementioned book, shares the following: Responding to a young man who struggled with bad habits and asked, “how can I achieve lasting transformation?”, the Rebbe said “the key to real change is to firmly resolve in your heart of hearts that this behavior doesn’t reflect who you truly are. But the first step toward freeing yourself of the habit is to avoid the situations that trigger it in the first place”.

A word from the wise:

Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong.

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!!!

Clarifying Agent!

In an overly superficial society, most of us appreciate authenticity. In the Chabad world, there are many Chassidim, many ambassadors of light serving in Chabad Centers around the world, many vital institutions in Brooklyn and beyond, but then there’s my uncle Chaim Shaul. Sharing the same Hebrew name as me, my father’s youngest brother stands out as a one-of-a-kind individual who is an inspiration, a beacon of authenticity and a man who loves Jewry. It’s been 23 years since our Rebbe’s passing and Chaim Shaul is still devout to the teachings, directives and world perspective of the Rebbe, and trusted by all to deliver truth.

In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, we read about the plague that killed twenty-four thousand sinning Jews. With the advice of Balaam, Jew hating King Balak instructs the Moabite women to seduce Jewish men into adultery and idolatry, resulting in this terrible plague. Upon seeing a public desecration of everything Judaism holds dear, Pinchas seeks Moses’ instruction on procedure, but Moses was unsure. Pinchas recalled the biblical rule and killed Zimri and Cozbi himself, and the plague ceased. While most focus on the killing episode itself, I find the motives impressive. Even when Moses’ clear ruling was unavailable, the Jewish people needed a Pinchas to have the clarity to stay on message and not deviate from G-d’s wishes.

People like my uncle Chaim Shaul are occasionally on the receiving end of criticism, but which leader isn’t? He isn’t swayed by public opinion, isn’t able to be bought off with money and doesn’t worry about his reputation; he fights the good fight no matter what. He has been blessed to print one hundred and fifty books of the Rebbe’s teachings, unearthing seventy years’ worth of archives and is a mentor to hundreds. As he turns fifty this Tuesday, I wish my Pinchas, my uncle, the best of blessings and thank him personally, in this public email, for all he has done for me, our family, our Bozeman community and my beloved Lubavitch.

May we each enjoy a Pinchas moment; doing what’s right without a care in the world!

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 doesn't keep me up at night!

You don’t need to be a history buff to cringe when reading UNESCO’s recent resolution about Native Americans. They announced this week that the Indian Tribes in the United States are an occupying force and the Native lands must be returned to their original owners, the Americans. OK fine, UNESCO didn’t say that about the Native Americans, but rather about the Native Israelite's, the Jewish people, and their historic connection to the Western Wall, Cave of the Patriarchs and Jerusalem’s Old City. You don’t need to be an ardent Zionist to understand the lunacy of their declaration and to realize that it’s blatant anti-Semitism.

 

UNESCO's members should’ve read this week’s Torah portion, Balak. In it, Balaam the prophet of Midian, is hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to use his Divine powers to curse the Jewish people. Balaam begs Balak to withdraw his request, explaining to him that when tapping into the energies of prophecy it is unpredictable; you never know what words G-d will ultimately place in your mouth. Yet, Balak’s hatred for Jewry was voracious and he insisted Balaam spout the curses. The results were every anti-Semite’s worst nightmare: Balaam delivered the most beautiful blessings to, and predictions about, Jewry. Isn’t it always better when our virtues are bestowed upon us from the outside?

Naturally, I am worrier. I worry about turbulence on planes, money in the bank, the success of my kids in school, the wellbeing of my septic tank, my physical health and pretty much everything in between. The one thing I never worry about is the Jewish people. Do we have our ups and downs? sure. Do we encounter terrible moments of tragedy? sadly, way too often. Yet, are we the most durable survivalists to ever walk this green earth? Indeed, we are. UNESCO may have a few moments of fame, but their legacy will join that of all the others that have come and gone as the Jewish people thrive.

Am Yisroel Chai!

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!!!

 

Beat the heck outta....

I just returned from a few days in New York, where Shoshana and I commemorated the Rebbe’s 23rdYahrtzait at his resting place in Queens, just before she departed by bus to Gan Israel summer camp in Haliburton, 160 miles Northeast of Toronto, Ontario. It took years for me to realize that one can maneuver with ease through chaotic New York, when being extra nice and gracious to those we encounter. Whether a Dollar-Rent-a-Jalopy shuttle bus driver or a waitress in the many fine restaurants; kindness and softness gets me a lot further than roughness.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, we read the infamous tale of Moses hitting the rock, extracting water to quench the thirst of the Jewish people. G-d had told him to speak to the rock but he chose to hit it instead. So often we act like Moses. We encounter certain friends, relatives or acquaintances and we feel like we are talking to an unmovable stone. We decide “enough is enough” and we start hitting the stone instead, hoping for the desired results. At times, we may even succeed with our hitting, and extract something positive from the human stone, but its long-term effects will be judged unfavorably. The explanation for Moses’ action has been discussed for three thousand years, but what will be said about us in 3000 years, can be decided today.

We all fail from time to time; losing our cool when under too much pressure or experiencing an overload of anxiety. Yet, as I continue to learn myself, we must communicate softly and calmly, as this will not only strengthen our inner equilibrium, but also make it a lot easier for the recipient, whether child or otherwise, to listen. Whenever wild Menny gets out of control (which happens regularly), I “try” to call him over, whisper in his ear the message I want him to hear. It doesn’t always work, but it certainly catches his attention way more than when I raise my voice or threaten him with time-out.  As Shoshana was boarding the bus and I said goodbye, I reminded her to “treat the other campers the way she’d like to be treated”. 

We like sweet words way more than the rod, let’s treat others the same way.

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!!!

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!!!

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