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Weekly Message

Speak like a priest!

Today, the 5th of Iyar, our family is celebrating Menny’s fifth birthday. When I reflect on my boy, an energetic bundle of joy, and how he’s grown, naturally, it forces me into introspection.   I’m no “expert” on parenting; I’m just a father trying to be the best I can be to our beloved five children, learning from my many mistakes and always open to learning new techniques for the betterment of the father/child relationship. I’ve been taught that how I speak to the kiddos is so important. The tone I use, the facial expressions I show, the words I express, can make all the difference.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Tazria-Metzora, we read about gossipers and their consequence of Tzaraat, a supernatural dose of blotches that plague the home, clothing and skin. The individual is excommunicated and after a week in isolation, awaits the Kohen’s proclamation of his purity.  Why the Kohen? The Prophet Malachi says, “For a priest's lips shall guard knowledge, and teaching should be sought from his mouth, for he is a messenger of the Lord of Hosts”. The Talmud tells of an incident with three priests in the Temple, each of whom received a portion of the showbread. Since there were many priests, each one received only a small amount. One said to them: I received a bean-sized portion. And one said: I received an olive-bulk. And one said: I received a portion the size of a lizard’s tail. They investigated the background of the latter priest, who used the imagery of an impure creeping animal, and they found a trace of disqualification in his background.

A Kohen teaches by example how to speak properly.

Like a father trying to parent, one may think it’s impossible to change, but just because your mother was a yenta and you love being the one to report the gossip, as all ears are attuned to you, doesn’t mean you can’t change. Henry Thomas Buckle wrote “Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people”. If we hang out with priests, people with a more refined and healthy form of speech, it can, and will, change us for the better. If the only thing two people have in common is info on a third party, you need to discover more meaning in your life, so you have better things to talk about.

Ending gossiping; one social scene at a time! 

 

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

 

Emotional Intelligence

Recently, Chavie and I had the opportunity to attend a one-day seminar about self-awareness and EQ/EI. If you’re like me, it’s a new concept, so let me give you the abbreviated version: EQ/EI reflects a person's ability to empathize with others: identify, evaluate, control and express one’s own emotions; perceive, and assess others' emotions; use emotions to facilitate thinking, understand emotional meanings. Naturally, the ideas we were taught were very familiar as they are consistently addressed in Chassidic thought, but having them brought to life, was eye opening and hopefully life changing.

Interestingly, this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, shares two moments of incredible self-awareness, one exhibited by Moses and the other by his brother Aaron. When Aaron, the newly appointed High Priest, hears the news of the untimely passing of Nadav and Avihu, two of his four sons, the Torah says, “And Aaron was silent”. Yes, he recognized their sin of drunkenness in the Holy of Holies, he understood that they experienced spiritual ecstasy and even heard the encouraging words uttered by his younger brother Moses, who said, “This is what the Lord spoke, when He said, 'I will be sanctified through those near to Me, and before all the people I will be glorified”. Yet, Aaron was self-aware of his feelings, his subjectivity and his brokenness and he just remained silent.

Later in the story, Moses condemns Aaron’s two living sons, Elazar and Itamar, for what he perceived as a violation of the tabernacle rules of inauguration. When Moses is reminded of the actual Halacha, G-d’s exact will under the circumstances, he realizes that he was mistaken, his anger was unfounded and after Aaron responds to his rebuke, we are told “Moses heard this, and it pleased him.”. He was adequately self-aware not to take it personal or defend the indefensible, he simply acknowledged his mistake and publicly declared the correct ruling. Moses and Aaron both understood that they aren’t perfect and the more thoughtful they are, the better person/leader they can be.

Having a high IQ is awesome; balanced with a high EQ, is healthy!

 

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!!!

 

Dear Jewish Women...

Dear Jewish women,

I trust this note finds you well, hopefully at the tail end of the labor-intense weeks of cleaning, prepping, cooking and “turning over” your kitchen for our beloved holiday of Passover. Although I share this thought quite often at Shabbat meals and Torah classes, the time has come for me to put pen to paper in expressing my gratitude to each of you for what you’ve given me, what you’ve given our people.

At the Seder, while reading the Haggadah, we relive G-d’s miracles during the Exodus and splitting of the sea, we remember the leaders and warriors who were His emissaries in the redemptive process and we even eat symbolic food connected to the stages of our journey. Yet, it’s easy to forget the “average Jew”, the Jewish “Joe the plumber”, the men and women who made us worthy of this unbelievable transition from slavery to freedom.

So, today I say thank you, thank you to the Jewish women, who are brave, courageous, tenacious, imbued with feminine perspective and who understood liberty before it was a thing.

Thank you to Yocheved and Miriam, Moses’ mother and sister, who saved his life by hiding him in a basket on the water, defying the barbaric decrees.

Thank you to princess Bityah, the Pharaohs daughter, who disobeyed the “empire” and rescued little Moses, adopting him and raising him in the palace.

Thank you to the Jewish midwives who taught the women how to give birth in silence and helped them through the postpartum process so that their children shouldn't be murdered by the Egyptians.

Thank you to the countless Jewish women who watched their children being used as caulking in the mighty walls of Ramases and continued to bring more children, more life and more brightness into the, then broken, world.

Thank you to the Jewish women who during the harsh slavery set aside hand-crafted musical instruments, because they believed, they knew, redemption was promised and wanted to be ready for the subsequent celebration.

Thank you to the Jewish women who didn't Kvetch about the men singing with Moses, but rather joined Miraim and sang together in a most beautiful female assembly.

Thank you to the Jewish women who remained devoted to Judaism while their husbands chose to create a golden calf.

Thank you to the daughters of Tzlafchad who stood up for their rights and with G-d’s full support received a portion in the land of Israel.

Thank you to Deborah the ProphetessYael the Kenite and Yehudis the Maccabee for showing us what women warriors look like.

Thank you to women like Ruth who gave up wealth, prestige and even family just so they can join our treasured nation.

Thank you to Queen Esther for expressing the beauty and dignity of the Jewish woman while interacting with an ultra-secular environment.

Thank you to Bruriah and Yalta who ferociously debated Jewish law with the Rabbis in the Talmudic study halls.

Thank you to the Jewish women during the inquisition, pogroms, holocaust and those living currently on the frontline in our homeland Israel, who have expressed such deep resolve, selflessness and perseverance.

Thank you to Sarah Schenirer for staring the first Jewish girls school in Poland which paved the way for their education till this very day.

Thank you to my mom who was my rock and whose way of thinking, speaking, writing and inspiring still guides me every day.

Thank you to my Bubbe who was a classy woman with a smile of the century, who was so proud of her Jewish heritage.

Thank you to my Israeli Savta, born and bred in Jerusalem, whose passion for Torah Judaism and her love for Israel was second to none.

Thank you to the Jewish women who race home to light their Shabbos candles before sunset and who have broken the ice of Montana's springs to immerse themselves in a Mikvah.

Thank you to the Jewish women who naturally appreciate, or have learned to appreciate, the guidelines of modesty and realize that being attractive isn’t synonymous with being provocative.

Thank you to the countless Jewish women I’ve met, who through thick and thin, through intermarriages and divorces, through urban and rural life, have remained unwavering in their union with G-d and His people.

Thank you to Chavie, who, through the ups and downs that we share, continues to be my anchor, my hope and my tower of strength.

Dear women, I write this, so that you know how appreciated you are. It’s not only about your good looks and splendid clothing, it’s not only about your mouthwatering cooking and tireless mothering, it’s not just about your infinite love and stereotype-breaking successes, it’s about you. The inner you; the you that is so unique, so dignified, so feminine, so so deserving of our respect.

May this Pesach bring you all revealed blessings that allows you to be yourselves as you teach us all how to experience freedom, something ya’ll made a reality.

With respect and admiration,

Brother Chaim

PS May G-d bless our secular society and help them understand that when a man or woman refrains from physical contact with someone from the opposite sex, it’s out of respect, not contempt.  

PPS 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!!!

An Unnatural Gift!

During a family getaway for spring break, at a cabin near the Madison, I had the opportunity to learn about the life of football player Michael Oher, who was taken in by Sean & Leigh Anne Tuohywhich changed his life forever. This incredible story of genuine kindness reminded me of a song I grew up with, by Chassidic singer Avraham Fried “There’s a small piece of heaven in everyone’s heart, a glorious gift from above, it will sparkle and shine if we each do our part, to reach out and touch it with love”. It’s important for each of us to see the diamond within each heart.

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, second in the Book of Leviticus, we read that “A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.”. The 16th century Jewish poet, Rabbi Elazar Ben Moshe Azkiri of Safed, wrote “I will build a tabernacle​​ in my heart to glorify G-d's honor. And I will place an altar in the tabernacl​​e dedicated​ to G-d's divine rays of splendor. ​ And for the eternal flame I will take upon myself the fire that fueled the Binding of Isaac. And as a sacrifice​ I will offer G-d my soul, my unique soul.” Sometimes, our view of our fellow is impaired due to the billows of smoke; what we don’t realize is that it’s the smoke of their soul on fire.

This upcoming Tuesday, I will be celebrating the birth of my beloved Rebbe. I know it’s been almost twenty-four years since his passing, yet I still celebrate, because his birthday is a day that the world was gifted, a day that I was gifted. Gifted with what? The Rebbe is the one who taught me to do the unnatural. To see the good in others without being judgmental, to give others the benefit of the doubt, even when logic says I should doubt them, to reach out to those who have resisted my outreach before, because today is not yesterday and to believe that I can change the world through my work in Montana. He ignited my inner flame and I try to kindle others with it. Education Day USA is dedicated to him, because that’s the foundation of all education: seeing your students as gems.

Happy birthday dear Rebbe; thank you for gifting me with glasses of hope!

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!!!

 

 

Healthy Fat!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Moses & Math!

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

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

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

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

 

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

Batter Up!

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

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

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

Talk is cheap; Esther chose action!  

 

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

More than just a potato Knish!

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

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

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

Xbox won’t do it!

 

 

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

Planting Hope!

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

When feeling helpless, we need signs of hope.

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

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

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

 

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

Thank You Chavie!

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

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

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

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

What is mine and what is yours, is hers!

 

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

In Search of a Jewish Bible!

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

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

Every Mitzvah fuels personal betterment.

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

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

 

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

In G-d Do I Trust?

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

 

Believe in humanity but trust only in G-d.

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

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

Through the fire, through the hell!

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

 

I Want To Break Free!

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

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

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

TGI Shabbat – one weekend at a time!

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

Show Him Passion!

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

 

I love Jews with passion.

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

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

Inner Fire!

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

 

Mincha in Morocco!

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

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

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

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

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

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