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Weekly Message

It's ok to be pure!

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting with Benefis Health System CEO John Goodnow along with some of the hospital board members in Great Falls. Mr. Goodnow, who I had spent time with the night before, said to me “Rabbi, tell them about the immersion pool”, referring to the conversation we had about Mikvah. So, over a delicious Kosher lunch, I sat talking about the Mitzvah of family purity with a group of gentiles, who were mesmerized by the idea and grateful for my openness to talk about the Jewish approach to intimacy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, we read about a world overtaken by immorality and valuelessness. G-d asks “His guy” Noah to build an ark, a large boat, to save those who would earn the gift of life. He was building for one-hundred-and-twenty years trying to convince people of the impending flood, but living immorally was so addictive, so tempting, so attractive, that people chose drowning in the flood over making better choices. It’s a sad state of the human condition, choosing harm to ourselves, deliberately, despite knowing we can do better.

Chassidus explains that the forty days and nights of the flood was like a universal Mikvah, which needs to be measured at forty Se’ah, a Halachic measurement for liquids. G-d concluded that the world needed a purification, a recalibration of its holiness, and so He shut down the world He created and re-opened it after the flood with a renewed vision for, and belief in, humanity. Purity isn’t a bad word, it doesn’t mean unclean or bad; it means you are experiencing a moment of spiritual malfunction or disenfranchisement, and Hashem in His infinite kindness gave you a way to get back on board.

Be pure, it’s popular with G-d!

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

Celebrating you!

We just wrapped up an incredible holiday season packed with services, communal meals, celebrations and Mitzvos galore. From Shofar on Main Street to Kol Nidrei in the new center, from Sushi in the Sukkah to Simchat Torah dancing into the night, it was like living on a different galaxy, imbued with holiness, meaning and tradition. Touching me deeply was the individuality: the MSU student who made it to part of Kol Nidrei, the mom with a struggling baby who made it to Ne’ila, the woman in her 80’s with a priceless smile in our inaugural Sukkah mobile and the Iraq war veteran who danced with melodious soulfulness during Hakafos.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bereishis, the first in Genesis, we read of Adam’s creation. The Talmud teaches that G-d chose to create the first human alone so that we learn that “anyone who destroys a human life is considered as if he had destroyed an entire world, and anyone who preserves a human life is considered to have preserved an entire world." If we’d been created in groups, we would lack the appreciation for the uniqueness of each individual, we’d lump fellow humans into groups or categories, we’d commercialize human beings, which would be tragic.

George Carlin once said, “I often warn people, somewhere along the way, someone is going to tell you, 'There is no 'i' in team.' What you should tell them is, 'Maybe not—but there is an 'i' in independence, individuality, and integrity.” Teamwork is vital, community is precious, marriage can be the greatest blessings, but it all starts with Adam, one individual who Is independently worthy of G-d’s time and can bring about, through their specialness, a real dose of good to our fractured world.

Celebrate you, G-d thinks you’re awesome!

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

A dose of Samuel!

Sukkot is spectacular and the weather this year was delicious. Over one hundred and fifty local Jews joined us this holiday, in the Sukkah, at the new Shul, and on the Sukkah mobile (pics here). We internalized our vulnerability and opened ourselves up to G-d’s protection. On Simchat Torah (Wednesday) we will conclude the reading of Deuteronomy and begin Genesis, the Book of Bereishis. We go back to the beginning of the Torah, learning about creation, as we ingest history, values, ethics and instructions from on high.

A few months ago, I wrote about my buddy Adam’s Bar Mitzvah at Bridger Creek, well this impressive Bar Mitzvah boy asked if he could continue learning Torah with me post Bar-Mitzvah, and we do. Almost every week, we take out our Life Chumash, and we learn. We started from Bereishis, the first moment of creation, and the thoughtful conversations, deep foundational ideas and beautiful commentary is just amazing. I am not sure who’s enjoying it more, me or him. It’s refreshing to dig into our untainted heritage without the blurring of secularism.

Whether you will be in Shul to celebrate in person or not, resolve this Wednesday to be a learned Jew. We are the people of The Book, so let’s open The Book and leave the pathetic labels of religious/secular, reform/orthodox, member/unaffiliated aside, and just learn biblical wisdom. Step into the Lifson Library, grab a Genesis, Samuel, Zephaniah or Leviticus, and delve into the infinite wisdom embedded in these holy books. Knowledge is power and Torah knowledge is holy power. So, next time someone asks you about Kosher you won’t pass-out or get heartburn, you will be able to say “interestingly, just recently I was learning about that…”.

Celebrate the Torah, it’s what makes us who we are!

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

He's in the driver seat!

I left home for Yeshiva at the young age of fifteen, and lived away from home ever since, so my parents never had to endure my youthful driving. Shoshana is seventeen now and with a newly minted drivers permit and fifty hours of required parent-guided driving to get her license, I’m having quite the experience. She’s a good driver, open to learning from a sergeant-type dad, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have my moments. It’s a risky idea, being open enough, even vulnerable, to place my life in the hands of this wannabe adult. It’s the only way she’ll learn, even if it ups my heart rate here and there.

Tonight, we will usher in Sukkot, a festival reminding us of the clouds of glory that G-d used for our protection while we sojourned in the desert between Egypt and Israel.  It’s a special time that helps reinforce for us the importance of being vulnerable; open to our brittleness and the state of human fragility, recognizing that G-d is the one who takes care of us. As a father I often think that I can protect my children, in truth, I can only do so much, giving them my very best, but their ultimate shelter, all of our collective shielding, is provided by our Father in Heaven. Covid proved that we can’t control how things will turn out, just whether we show up each day to give it our best shot. It’s about letting go and letting Him do Him, the way only He can. 

The snow covered the mountains yesterday and we don’t know what the weather will be like during the eight days in the Sukkah. What we do know is that come what may, no matter the winds that may gust through our Sukkah or our life, we are steadfast enough to survive and come out on the other side standing, because G-d is our Protector. We will toast L’Chaim’s and be inspired, because for two thousand years we’ve been told that the Sukkah would fall, but we relied on Hashem and our people are here to tell the tale.

Embrace the Sukkah; it’s G-d embracing you!

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

Dear antisemite...

Dear antisemite...

I’ve thought long and hard before writing to you, as I don’t think you deserve my attention or the usage of my precious time; I do this for the sake of many fellow Jews who are alarmed by you, worried for their future on account of your rhetoric, so I’m breaking from my norm to spend a few minutes chatting with you.  

We are thirteen short hours away from Yom Kippur, our Day of Atonement, a day of forgiveness, mercy, and reconciliation. It’s a day on which Jewish souls shine, our people’s uniqueness comes to the forefront and our holy relationship with G-d is strengthened. It’s Yom Kippur and the Jewish tenacity expressed on this day reawakens within us our infinite indestructibility; in the words of Mark Twain “All things are mortal but the Jew; all other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?”

We are blessed to live in the United States where our incredible law enforcement agencies deal with you cowards every day. Here in Montana our entire state and local government bodies stand with the Jews anytime something arises that requires their intervention for the Jewish community. Yet, at times, your intimidation, your threats, the hurtful words you say, words I wouldn’t want my children to hear, gets to us, making us look over our shoulders, so today I am going to try a two-pronged approach to dealing with you and hopefully knock some sense into you:

1) Education. I am certain that you have no idea as to why you hate us and who It is exactly that you are hating. You’re either misinformed about us or misguided in your understanding of who we are and what it is we do. No, we aren’t Christians or Muslims, and your saviors aren't ours, but we are a great people who have added so much to the world in the realm of morality, ethics, values, charity, compassion, and holiness. Abraham and Sarah were our founders and Moses is our teacher. Isaiah and Deborah were among our long list of holy Prophets/Prophetesses and Maimonides was one of ours too. Like most people of faith, we strive to be good neighbors, good citizens; at our core feel connected to our 3,300-year-old traditions dating back to Sinai. 

There were people back then, like Midian and Amalek, who didn’t really like us either, they simply judged us based on external differences and a healthy dose of jealousy, but they didn’t know us, never had coffee with us, and never chatted with us personally about our families and lifestyle. Though we share the same community, you never had the decency to ask me directly how we survived the Egyptians, Romans, Communists and Nazis? You never asked me what makes me, along with my Jewish brothers and sisters, tick, and what my foundational perspectives are? You never bothered to ask me what It was like for my grandfather to lose his entire family due to poisonous hatred? I would love to meet up with you at Café M where you can share your ideas and grievances with me, the Jew, and clear it up. I bet when we are done, you’ll have a very different opinion of Am Yisroel.

You’ve been told that we are rich and powerful, but the Jews that I know are hardworking, tax paying and country loving patriots, mostly middle class, who are Jewish first, but enthralled with the country that welcomed their grandparents at Ellis Island. One of my grandfathers was a butcher and the other a truck driver, one grandmother a secretary and the other a seamstress, my mother was a kindergarten teacher and afterschool tutor and my dad tried hard to earn a living in the jewelry business with many years of financial hardship. We have no animus to anyone and only want to live side by side with you and your family, at peace.

I teach my children to respect all human beings, all of whom were created “in G-d’s image” and to respect our flag. They have many friends, Jewish and non-Jewish, and we all get along great. I want you to tell me, face-to-face, about your hatred for me, because, though I am not perfect, I can’t imagine you have a good reason to hate me. Ask yourself: Why do I really hate a nice Brooklyn-born Jewish boy living in Bozeman? Is his wife or five children a threat to your white pride or Islamic faith? So, Mr. self-proclaimed Jew hating antisemite, let’s be educated, let’s learn together, let’s Farbreng, I think you will learn a lot and perhaps I can learn a thing or two from you too.

2) Give it up: Though I believe option one is your best bet, please don’t mistaken our graciousness for foolishness. Should you choose hatred over education, judgmentalism over kindness, misinformation over fact-based knowledge, please know that we are undaunted. Tonight we will gather in Synagogues around the world and proclaim out loud “ Blessed be the name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever” and the special blessing of Shehechiyanu “Blessed are You, L-rd our G d, King of the Universe, who has granted us life, sustained us and enabled us to reach this occasion”. Jews of all flavors, those who are progressive and those who are conservative, the white Jews and the black Jews (yes, we have those too, sorry), the rich and the poor, the Australian and the Ukrainian, we will connect at the core, nourish our souls, and recommit ourselves to sharing light with ourselves, our families, our communities, and our fractured world.

You may wake up each day to promote darkness and spew hatred, but we wake up each day giving gratitude to G-d, giving all human beings the benefit of the doubt, and seeing you, yes even you, as someone who can choose sanity, being normal again, by doing Teshuva. Sure, thanks to Islamic terrorists and American Nazis, two peas in a bitter pod, we must have security at our places of worship to ensure the protection of our people who cherish life, but behind those Shul walls, in the inside of those sanctuaries, are men, women and children, determined to remain Jews despite your attacks, and who will carry that torch of King David for all eternity. We won’t run and we won’t hide; our Yarmulkes will remain on our heads, our Menorahs will remain lit in our public spaces, and our wish to educate the world with the Seven Universal Laws of Noah will march on forever.

Last week when both our Montana Senators and our Governor posted social media messages for a Shana Tova, I saw what y’all wrote in the comments. I am not naïve; I know that you don’t like me. Yet, I assure you today, as my ancestors did back in Poland, British-Palestine, and Ukraine, you can hurt us, but you can’t destroy us. We lost many Jews to your ideology of hate, but we are strong, we are defiant, we are G-d’s boys and girls, and there isn’t anything you can do about that.

I don’t write this arrogantly, just factually, we aren’t going anywhere. We love life, we cherish life, we celebrate life, and we wish you well. Take a deep breath, ponder your life, contemplate your purpose on earth, and recognize that hatred is toxic, and love is delicious.  You may choose to ignore me, but your kids will thank you for listening to my words today, imbuing them with politeness instead of cruelty.

It’s the Day of Atonement, G-d can forgive you, the Jews would be happy to pardon you, just change your heart and you’ll be better for it.

See you at the coffee shop….Have an easy fast :)

Rabbi Chaim


 

Return to who you are!

Rosh Hashana was magical. So many Jews, of all flavors, joined us for services, meals, Tashlich walk and the Shofar blowing. A highlight is always getting as many Jews as possible to hear the Shofar. Some showed up at our place up during the two days for a private Shofar experience, many others merited a visit from the three Yeshiva students, who were joined by Menny, as they trekked thirteen miles or so over the holiday to blow the Shofar for those who couldn’t make it to Shul. There is something about the Shofar that opens our hearts, exposes our souls; it allows us to be us and check in with G-d.

This Shabbos, on which we read the shortest Torah portion of the year, Vayelech, is also known as Shabbos Shuva, the Shabbos of Return, as we are in the pre Yom-Kippur repentance mode. In his powerful song "Vehashev", Shlomo Carlebach sings “Return again, return again, Return to the land of your soul. Return to who you are, Return to what you are, Return to where you are”. It’s the truth, Teshuva doesn’t mean repentance, it means return, which is way bigger. It’s not just about being a transgressor who needs to be fixed up, to be “born again”; it’s about returning to who you are at the core.

On Tuesday, as I blew the Shofar for a religious skeptic, I concluded by saying humorously “sister, return to the Lord; the Lord is waiting for you, sister”. We laughed, as a did my best impersonation of a southern preacher, but it was true. People are scared of change, because they think they need to be someone else, to change out of their skin into a new being, but Judaism teaches that real change is actually about becoming you, living by the light of your essence, and that is freeing not burdensome. Freeing ourselves from the shackles of conformity, shackles of who society says we need to be, freeing ourselves from the “wanna be” version of “me” to being “me”; “return to the land of your soul”.

“The Lord is waiting for you sister”!

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

Be a Pomegranate!

Summer break has been very long, and the kids are finally enjoying their first week at school, as we, their elated parents, balance five kids and five schools. Naturally, our kids always interact with teachers, school staff, fellow students and other parents. I often wonder what values guide their choices, their behavior patterns, and what ideals they will live by, and carry with them forever. What will inspire them to be the best version of themselves, and to feel connected on High as they fulfill their unique life mission.

Of all the Rosh Hashana traditions, the eating of the pomegranate always hit home for me. King Solomon chants in Song of Songs, “Your temple is like a split pomegranate from within your kerchief”. The Talmud notes that the Hebrew word for “your temples” can also mean “your empty ones.” The verse is teaching us that even the “emptiest” among Israel are full of Mitzvot, holy deeds, like a pomegranate is full of seeds. Each year as I sit at the Rosh Hashana dinner table, I see the symbolic fruit and think of the incredible lesson of how we are to see each human being, with dignity, respect and appreciation.

I have many hopes for our children, all of which are out of my control. Top of that list is for them to see themselves, and all those they encounter, as “full of seeds”, full of fruitful life and worthy of G-d’s love and blessing. There is nothing more harmful, more destructive, than a deflated self-worth, and that is something that comes from within. The pomegranate is the Jewish way of saying that each of us, every child of G-d, is filled with so much good, so much holiness, and when we see that in ourselves, we can see that in others too.

Have a pomegranate infused Rosh Hashana. Shana Tova!

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

Holy Names; Holy People!

Last “weekend” was spiritually uplifting. On Friday afternoon, with Chana Laya and Menny in tow, I helped a Jewish family adorn their new Big Sky home with six Mezuzot, a Chumash, Tehilim and Tanya along with a Tzedakah box, and even laid Tefillin with the dad and their two teenage sons. The next morning, on Shabbos, we notched it up, when we had the great honor, in the presence of the Torah, to give Jewish names to two local children, with their parents and grandparents in attendance. Tirtza and her brother Ram will always remember the jubilant crowd singing “Siman Tov Umazal Tov” for them, as they stood near the holy scroll.

 Look down from Your holy dwelling, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel, and the ground which You have given to us, as You swore to our forefathers a land flowing with milk and honey.” When G-d looks from His heavenly abode, He can see us either as flawed people constantly messing up or He can see us for the Torah-loving, Mitzvah-observing, kindness-professing, Jews that we are at our core. It is with the latter, wholesome, view that G-d chooses to see us and thus we are worthy of His Bracha, His infinite blessing.

As we inch closer to Rosh Hashana, a time when too many Jews beat themselves up for what wasn’t right during the past year, let’s do it differently, let’s spend the final eleven days of the year emphasizing to Hashem all that has been right in our spiritual journey during 5781. Despite a topsy-turvy world, plagued by immense uncertainty, Jews are on fire, filled with passion to remain connected to G-d and three thousand plus years of Torah inspiration. Sure, we can always fix a thing or two and we should, but don’t be bashful, wake up in the morning and proclaim “Look down from Your holy dwelling….and bless Your people”, we deserve it.

No sinner-shaming, just holy-soul-extolling!  

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

The Bat Mitzvah Fairy!

In a world of fragmentation, Jewish mysticism has always guided us to “Oneness”. There is no real division between the holy and the mundane, it’s just that we, G-d’s gardeners, need to find, and reveal, the holiness, the roses, within the mundane, within the weed-infested garden. After Chaya’s incredible Bat Mitzvah celebration with eighty women and girls in attendance, on Tuesday we headed up with some relatives to Fairy Lake, which is splendid. It was a perfect fit, when reaching a spiritual high as a Jewish girl embarks on a life of Mitzvot and personal accountability, we are to take that Divine energy into nature, into the world, and utilize it to see the world from a new vantage point, seeing the G-d spark in every facet of His world.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, we read about Ma’ake, building a fence around our roof to ensure the safety of all those who ascend to it. In her speech on Monday, Chaya mentioned a fascinating thought: We are commanded to have Mezuzot on our doorposts and also commanded to ensure the physical safety of our home for all who enter our abode. A Jew is to experience G-dliness in every part of our lives, G-d isn’t meant to be compartmentalized. Sure, we have the spiritual protection of the Mezuzah, but we also need to follow through on G-d’s will and make our homes safe from physical danger, and one doesn’t fill in for the other. The oneness of G-d is to be felt in all that we do.

Reb Binyomin Kletzker, a Chabad chassid some two-hundred years ago, was a lumber merchant. One year, while he was adding up the annual accounts, he inadvertently filled in under a column of figures: TOTAL: Ein od milvado ("There is none else beside Him"). When berated by a friend for his so-called “absentmindedness”, Reb Binyomin responded: "We consider it perfectly natural if, during prayer, one's mind wanders off to the fair in Leipzig to think about business. So, what's so terrible if, when involved in business, a alien thought” regarding the unity of G‑d infiltrates the mind?".

Don’t relegate G-d to Shul, He’s at the Farmers Market too; just open your eyes!

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

Unjust Justice!

On Wednesday I was honored to speak at the National Jewish Retreat in Stone Mountain, Georgia. As I awaited the airport train in Atlanta, an African American fellow, perhaps in his 60’s, asked me if I was Jewish (not sure what gave it away). When I answered in the affirmative, he proceeded to tell me about the 1993 Chanukah story with the Schnitzer family in Billings and how he personally opened the “not in our town” chapter in Fort Collins, Colorado and helped both Jewish and Muslim congregations when they were being harassed. It was a fascinating few minutes, as two random people chatted about their commonalities and the importance of fighting for justice and kindness.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we read the famous words “Justice, justice you shall pursue”. Rashi explains that the meaning of the verse is that when one is seeking to take a case to the Beth Din, the Jewish rabbinic tribunal, they must pick a good one that has honorable sages with impeccable credentials sitting on its bench. Justice isn’t something that we get to make up or to create with our own imagination, G-d decides what’s just and what isn’t, and we pursue justice that is based on those G-dly values, not on our own impulses. Voltaire wrote “It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one”, and too often in the name of justice, with subjective vendettas, we simply get it wrong.  

When pursuing justice, it must be balanced by what it says later in our Torah portion, “Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God.” and “According to the law they instruct you and according to the judgment they say to you, you shall do; you shall not divert from the word they tell you, either right or left”. As tempting as it may be, and as convenient as it has become, we don’t get to be judge, jury and executioner for every person who isn’t our cup of tea. In the words of Ethics of our Fathers “Rabbi Shimon the son of Gamliel would say: By three things is the world sustained: law, truth and peace. As is stated (Zachariah 8:16), "Truth, and a judgement of peace, you should administer at your city gates''. You need all three for our world to be healthy.  

Be just in your justice or chaos ensues!

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

A Joyous Stampede!

Joy is so beautiful, but not easily attainable. Last night Menny and I attended the Bozeman Stampede which includes Montana riders and ranchers exhibiting their skills with the animal kingdom. Not everything they do is my cup of tea, some of it hurts the animals, but Menny wanted to go and so I made it happen for him. What amazed me were the people, everyday Montanans, who were out about with their loved ones, enjoying life in Big Sky Country,  who don’t need expensive “things” to bring them joy. They were grateful for the blessings of America, sang the anthem with heart and soul, and made a rabbi with a Yarmulke and a son dressed in a Spiderman onesie feel at home. It’s kind-of how I see all the RVers who spend Shabbos with us each summer week, they seem so happy, so content, though they don’t have the “vital” amenities I am so used to.

In this week’s Torah portion, Re’eh, we read a few verses about joy. One of them states “…and you shall rejoice in all your endeavors, you and your households, as the Lord, your God, has blessed you.” It’s that needed pause we take, that moment of inner and out silence in which we contemplate all the good, all the blessings, all that’s right and all that is bright, that envelopes us with positivity. It’s the inner joy that we feel when our child thrives, when our community grows, when our soul feels uplifted and when our spouse is pleased with us. Joy can’t happen if all we focus on is the doom and gloom, with everything that is wrong with the world; we must be able to look up.

This Shabbos we usher in the new month of Elul, the month that prepares us for the High Holy Days. We often think of this time as being one of holiness and spirituality, but in truth, for one to attain this sought-after healthy relationship with G-d, one must have joy. The Torah tells us “Since you did not serve God your Lord, with joy and good heartedness, when you were affluent-- You will serve your enemies”. The Holy Ari, Rav Isaac Luria, interprets this statement to mean that the problem wasn’t that you didn’t serve G-d all-together, but that you didn’t serve Him with joy. Joy is a cure to life’s ailments, and it comes from within.

G-d gave you life, you may as well enjoy it!

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

Working out for two!

Losing a friend is really hard. On Tuesday, I received the dreaded call from Molly, informing me that her dad, Mike Chaet, one my dearest local friends, passed away. I spent the last two weeks Farbrenging almost daily with Mike while he was being treated at Bozeman Health, he knew his beautiful life was coming to an end and he shared with me the things he wanted me to know when he’s gone. Last Friday I had a chance to put on Tefilin with him for the last time, after which he held my hand, told me he loved me and said, “thanks Buddy”.  The last text he ever sent me was about getting his own memorial plaque on the Shul memorial board, ending the text with “LOL”; never losing his sense of humor.

 And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord, your God.” In addition to post eating gratitude, the Torah, as elucidated in the Talmud, Code of Jewish Law and Chassidic thought, emphasizes how a Jew should eat healthfully. I am far from perfect in this field, as we live a world with so much processed food with ingredients we can’t even pronounce, but I have been working extra to find healthy options, to eat healthy quantities and to be kind to my body.  

Mike spent his entire life as a Whole Health Warrior. He imparted to me an understanding of plant-based eating, a fascination with the workings of the human body and a focus on the quality of our lives, not just the quantity of years we live. He was a vegan through and through, and I joked with him that if he tried a “ribeye” he may heal from his horrible infection. He laughed, I laughed, we both laughed a lot over the past two weeks. In 2015, after inviting him to a Shul event, he wrote to me “Stop bugging me...I'm at gym working out for both of us....Tough duty...”, that was Mike in all his glory.

Give your body the love it deserves!

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

The Body is a Masterpiece!

On Monday, while visiting the mall, there was a clinic set up asking Montanans to donate blood that is used for a network of thirty Montana hospitals. I volunteered, and after answering 900 questions, they drew a pint of blood to, hopefully, help save a life. As Menny watched this go down, I explained to him how incredibly remarkable the body is, how Hashem created every detail of the human being with a purpose, even giving them the ability to help another human. It’s truly amazing to know that not only does donating blood help the patients, but it also helps the donor, regenerating red blood cells which is good for our health.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, we read the powerful “Shema” in which we are commanded to “love the Lord your G-d with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. Love is never easy, certainly not when we are commanded to feel love, so why does the Torah demand it? Chassidus explains that the commandment isn’t about the emotion of love, but rather a command of the meditative state that can bring the Jew to love. If you don’t think G-d is “pretty”, if you don’t think He’s “intelligent”, if you don’t share His “values”, of course love will be impossible. Yet, if we meditate on all things G-d, realizing He’s everything you ever wanted, you will love Him too.

When we get caught up in all the perceived negatives in our life, then of course loving G-d won’t come easy. When stuck in the self-pity and “woe is to me” mentality, we are destined to anger, or worse, apathy. Yet, If we think of the miracle that is our bodies, when we think of the natural beauty that surrounds us in Big Sky Country, when we think of the ideas science has discovered in the creation, when we ponder the wonder of childbirth or kidney donations, it’s easy to fall in love with the “Producer” of this world.

Reflect on G-d’s system each morning; the love will follow!

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

Bar Mitzvah @ Bridger Creek!

 

On Sunday, I was fortunate to celebrate at the Bar Mitzvah of Adam Mendelsohn, a young man whose thirst for Jewish knowledge, and devotion to its study, is inspiring. As we stood near Bridger Creek and listened to him read the morning Brachot, blessings of gratitude, in fluent Hebrew, I realized that the “doom and gloom” research groups, who sit in ivory towers discussing the future of Jewry, are off, off big time. Adam’s parents Jason and Ronni introduced Adam to me and 25 Facetime lessons later this kid rocked it. He didn’t want a ritzy glitzy showbiz “Bar Mitzvah”, he wanted “tradition” and his wish was fulfilled.

 

 

This Shabbos, on which we read the Haftorah with the visionary words of Isiah, is known as “Shabbos Chazon”, the “Shabbos of Vision”. The Rebbe of blessed memory emphasized that it’s not just Isaiah’s vision but about us. Do we see the world with our soul lens or the coarseness of our bodily lens? Do we have a vision of doom when things are bright or a vision of brightness when all seems lost? Can we see the destruction and envision redemption like Isiah or see redemption and envision devastation like Pew Research? On This Shabbos, as we prep for the saddest day of the year, Tisha B’Av, our soul sees the Third Temple that will come with Mashiach, and it thirsts for the brightness.  

 

 

Bozeman won’t have water in ten years, Yellowstone will erupt anytime in the next million years, Iran will have nukes and destroy Israel, Covid will have two hundred more variants that should scare us into our crawl space, vaccines will change my DNA (I actually like that idea, perhaps my metabolism too :)), too many of us live with fear and gloom. How about a bright future? The world has come such a long way in medical research, Israel takes out the nuke sites every weekend, the world has seen worse plagues and has overcome, and sure, Yellowstone may erupt and water may need to be discussed, but fear? What for? The future is bright, the minds are brilliant, and the people are inherently good.

 

 

Ignore prophets of doom, stick to Isaiah and you’ll shine with positivity.

 

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

Bumpy Ride!

While I was in Whitefish, Polson, Missoula and Nebraska City, Nebraska this week for Kosher supervision, in between, I snuck in a twenty hour visit to San Antonio to celebrate Chavie’s 37th birthday with her, as she and the kids spends a few weeks at her parents’ home. Chavie is the real deal; whatever she shares in her Tanya classes online or on Instagram is how she tries to live her life and I benefit from living in a home, an environment, where growth is cherished. I found myself driving to the Flathead while listening to the audio of “Hunt, Gather, Parent” and I knew her perseverance was paying off.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Matot-Massei, the last in the Book of Numbers, we read about the forty-two journeys that the Jewish people trekked in the desert. Listing all the geographical locations at which the Jews rested may seem like overkill at first glance, but it isn’t. It’s so important to celebrate each pitstop, each rung in the ladder of life that we encounter, or we’re missing out on the wholesomeness. I’m sure the Jews remembered Marah and Sukkos more than other places, as consequential events took place there, but they didn’t forget Tachas and Etzyon Gaver, as those too were vital moments in the forty-year journey to Israel.

We would do right by ourselves if we treated each stop in our journey as being a valuable asset to our overall character. When we travel, things happen; cars break down, tires blow out, kids need bathrooms (and even adults sometimes), we need to rest overnight, we need to get a coffee, we get pulled over by a State Trooper. Things happen all the time and it doesn’t mean we give up on the journey. I’ve never met anyone at the gas station in Arlee who said, “I pulled over because I needed more windshield wiper fluid and then I just quit and remained at the gas station”.

A bump in the road is no reason to cancel the trip!

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

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