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Weekly Message

Seven points of light!

“Rabbi, Is the Torah just for the Jews?”. That is a question that I am asked all the time. The answer is an unequivocal “no”. There are six-hundred-and-thirteen Mitzvos in the Torah that G-d commanded to the Jew and seven that He commanded to Adam and Noah for all of humankind. Earlier this week, after months of tedious and collaborative editing, we published a beautiful brochure and website to share these seven laws with our fellow Montanans and people around the world eager to learn about these values. I pray that it succeeds and that we merit a world with more holiness, civility and humanity.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the Jewish women, led by Miriam the Prophetess, who sang songs accompanied by instruments galore after the splitting of the sea of reeds. Where did they acquire instruments one-week after the exodus? Our sages explain that during the enslavement, despite watching their children, even babies, being abused by the cruel Egyptians, they never gave up hope on the impending redemption. At their core, the bedrock of their existence, was a foundational belief in G-d, in Moses, in a bright future, so they set aside whatever instruments they could get a hold of, so that when they are freed, they’d have a way to express their joy.

On Monday we will commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “our capacity to deal creatively with shattered dreams is ultimately determined by our faith in G-d”. He was so right. Each individual, every society, needs a solid foundation on which we can rely to carry us through changing times, even extremely challenging eras. The seven Noahide laws are universal values that have withstood the test of time and are eternal in nature. Miriam and her ensemble of women taught us that with the right values, core beliefs, redemption is not only a possibility or probability, but a reality.

Study these seven and share it with the world!

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!!!

G-d and His tow truck!

Yesterday morning, as Bozeman experienced a few hours of whiteout conditions, Mendel, who joined our team in August, had his inaugural winter moment, when he ended in a snowbank on Bozeman Trail Road. I immediately drove over to transfer the kids to my car and take them to school, and an hour or so later he was pulled out and back on the road. It’s the story of life: our vision gets blurry, the conditions seem untenable, we hit a bump in the road, but with the help of friends and family, with guidance from the Torah, we get pulled back up and hit the road running towards our destination. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read about the monumental exodus from Egypt. The Jews had strayed badly. They were addicted to paganism, many were uncircumcised, they were uncertain about Moses their leader and some even spent the night before the exodus in the homes of their Egyptians neighbors, when they were meant to be at home so that G-d can pass them over and save them. These weren’t Jews living a holy life, they were spiritualty dysfunctional at a minimum, perhaps even wicked. Yet, G-d didn’t allow their “stuck in the ditch” mindset to rule the day; He would be their tow truck and get them out. 

So often, I find that in my life, when I hit a snowbank, miss a milestone of a loved one, or get an unexpected bill, I lose focus and get stuck. I get anxious, even angry, and, though, the rest of the day could’ve been awesome, super productive and even successful, somehow the bump takes me down. Yet, it’s so wrong. Hashem reminds us that getting stuck shouldn’t be a paralysis sentence, it’s foolish to even think that life won’t have moments in which we get stuck. Being a healthy G-d fearing human being means to acknowledge that we’re only stuck temporarily, then we must get up, rock on and leave our personal Egypt.

G-d will help you out, just call on His tow truck!

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 gift to the lonely!

It was the summer of 2004, my colleague Yitzchak and I, were traversing Montana to share Yiddishkait and we met Gavriel and Devorah Snyder at their home in the wilderness of Kila, 20 miles outside of Kalispell. They were warm, Torah loving and enthusiastic about Chabad opening a center in Montana. A part of me thought they were crazy “Montana? Not a chance!”, another part of me, deep down, had a seed planted “perhaps we could make this miraculously happen”. Indeed, they were both instrumental in opening Bozeman’s, Missoula’s and Kalispell’s Chabad Centers of illumination. On the evening of the 24th of Teves, Devorah passed away and she’s the first to be buried at our newly purchased Neshama Gardens cemetery.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’era, we read about the beginning of the ten plagues that G-d inflicted upon the Egyptians, hoping to stop their cruelty against the Jews and to ensure that they are finally liberated. Despite the stubbornness of The Pharaoh, his irrational addiction to power and his obsession with the Jews and Moses, the Torah commands us for all eternity to “love the convert, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt”. We Jews know how it feels to be an alone, we’ve almost always been outsiders, and we must therefore be the first to step up and treat a convert, who feels alone without a large Jewish family and with very little connections, with extra warmth and love.

Gavriel and Devorah converted to Judaism in their 50’s. They accepted all 613 Mitzvot of the Torah, they considered their journey to Judaism a labor of love and they ensured that every human being in their vicinity felt at home because they knew what it feels like to be a “stranger in a foreign land”. When I was a Yeshiva student, twenty-two years old, Devorah took care of me like her own child, even making sure that I had food for the daytime hours when I was on the road visiting people around the Flathead. We will miss you Devorah Ruth, an angelic soul, and I am certain that the Jewish community of Montana has one more ally on high.

Honor Devorah, bring joy to someone lonely today! 

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!!!

Climbing in Calico Basin!

Earlier this week, Chavie and I, with the four younger kiddos, enjoyed a breathtaking hike on the Calico Basin Trail in Nevada’s Red Rock Canyon. It was three hours of bliss as we climbed the various formations, and soaked up the wide array of colors, of this natural phenomenon.  When we reached the end of the trail, I sat on a rock and gazed at a group of rock climbers in action with their ropes, helmets, and harnesses. We have many rock and ice climbers in Bozeman, including some dear friends, and watching these climbers’ fearlessness, reminded me that when one is connected above, falling down isn’t a worry.

 For I will be with you, and this is the sign for you that it was I Who sent you. When you take the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain”. While ensuring Moses that he will lead the Jews to Sinai, making them worthy of redemption, G-d also imparts to him that “I will be with you”, making it clear that when He is with us, when we are connected to our Commander-In-Chief, our beloved Creator, we have absolutely nothing to fear.

Plato famously said, “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light”. I feel that so often G-d is guiding us, guiding me, to a place of illumination, leadership and meaning, but we are stifled, scared to let go of our plans, instead getting stuck; paralyzed, and unable to progress. It’s easy to fear falling when forgetting that the rope of our soul is connected on high and therefore have nothing to fear but fear itself, literally. When scoffers questioned Rabbi Meir of Premishlan’s ability to walk up an icy hill to immerse in a body of water for a Mikvah, he did it with ease and quipped “when one is connected above, they don’t fall below”.

Take me higher!

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!!!


Fear abated!

Wow! Chavie sure knows how to throw a party. Turning forty can feel different for each person, but between my inspirational Shabbos in New York and the joyous party this week in Bozeman I feel like my cup is full, overflowing. Friends, family, business acquaintances all came together to celebrate my milestone birthday. The atmosphere in the room was one of happiness, community and love, lots and lots of love. It meant so much to me to celebrate with our amazing community and to recognize what’s been created right here in our beloved valley.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the last in the Book of Genesis, we read of Jacob’s final days on earth. The Talmud tells us that Jacob wanted to reveal to his children what would occur at the end of days, but G-d didn’t let him. Jacob thought that G-d withheld that information from his beloved children because of a spiritual flaw in one of them. The kids, recognizing their father’s frustration, recited “Shema Yisrael”, proclaiming their belief in G-d’s oneness and letting him know that just as there is only one G-d in his heart, so too there is only one G-d in their hearts. At that moment, a relieved Jacob responded, “Baruch Shem”, Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom for ever and ever.

As I looked around the room on Sunday, in addition to the mouthwatering Sushi, fabulous bar, meaningful music and deep friendship, I saw a room of locals, Jews and gentiles, who are more in tune with their spiritual self, their core soul, as a result of this Chabad Center. The Rebbe of blessed memory dreamed of a world, a Montana, that is more connected to biblical values, more understanding of our Divine mission on earth and more appreciative of G-d's presence in their lives, Sunday was a testimony to just that, a community more soulful, more uplifted, more learned, and that is the greatest birthday gift of all.

Thank you! I am blessed!

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!!!

'Till we meet again Mama...

Eleven years is a long time, and tonight I will commemorate my mother’s eleventh Yahrtzait. Yesterday, after an incredible Chanukah that shined immense light across Big Sky Country (see pics here), my siblings and I visited my mom’s gravesite in New York. We prayed from the Book of Psalms, we reminisced about our amazing mother, and we did it together because it makes it just a tad easier. We debated whether the passage of time makes it easier or harder on loved ones, personally I am not sure, but I am certain that not a day goes by in my life that I don't think of her, miss her and try to live up to her high expectations of me.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read of Joseph’s reunion with his brothers. The most riveting of the reunions was between Joseph and Benjamin, because while paternally all the tribes were brothers, sons of Jacob, Benjamin was Joseph’s only maternal brother. Rachel raised her beloved Joseph with so much TLC ,but died while giving birth to Benjamin, when Joseph was just seven years old. It was almost like Joseph was stepping in to share that motherly connection, motherly love, with his younger brother. A mother’s love, her special touch, is so powerful and irreplaceable and the best we can hope for is to see our mother, different aspects of an amazing woman, within our beloved siblings.  

It was Sunday, December 12, 2010, about thirty-six hours before my mom passed, that I landed in New York with Chavie, Chaya and Zeesy. I entered her room at Lenox Hill Hospital, asked for everyone to leave for a few minutes, and held her hand. Though she was comatose, I knew she could hear me, I told her how much I loved her, how much I’d miss her and how lucky I was to have her as my mother. She was my mentor, my kick-in-the-pants and made me the man I am today. As her soul ascended to heaven that Tuesday morning, with her children and husband holding hands and humming the Shamil Niggun, I knew she’d never stop being my guardian angel and she hasn’t.

'Till we meet again..My Yiddishe Mama!

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 Old Variant!

Montana is Chanukah bright! From Israelis at the Rimrock Mall in Billings to those gathered at the windy lighting at the Livingston Depot, from the MAJCO celebration with Governor Gianforte at the State Capitol to the rabbinical students enlivening Great Falls with Latkes, from the Chanukah Bash which welcomed over one hundred souls on fire at the new center to our family time around the Menorah which is always the most special… and we still have three nights to go. Darkness better run for the hills, we are illuminated and there’s no stopping us now or ever.

We as Jews have dealt with a virus of Jew hatred and forced assimilation for forever. There was the Egyptian variant that went after our babies, the Babylonian variant that went after our finest youth, the Persian variant attacking our women, the Roman variant attacking our Holy Land, the Greek's two variants messing with our minds and bodies, while the Spanish variant went after the holiness of our souls, the Cossack variant went after our villages and ranches, with the Russian variant hitting our faith in G-d and the German variant despising us entirely and trying to get rid of us all-together. Yet, we are still here because they all forgot something vital: we have a built-in antidote, the same antidote that lived within Judah the Maccabee, Queen Esther, Eli Wiesel and my buddy Howard in Billings, it’s the pure oil, the soul, that can never be broken or eliminated.

 Germany. Rachel Posner, wife of the local rabbi, snapped a photo of the family Menorah and captured the Nazi building and its dreaded flag in the background. ">She wrote a few lines in German on the back of the photo. “Chanukah, 5692. ‘Judea dies’, thus says the banner. ‘Judea will live forever’, thus respond the lights.” The variants don’t scare me, not today, not ever, we are Jewish, we are aglow, we are eternal.

I see the light!

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!!!

Judah didn't go it alone!

Pulled off by my older brother Yochanan, ten of my dearest friends from around the world surprised me last Shabbos and joined me for my 40th birthday at the Rebbe’s resting place in Queens. The brotherly inspiration we enjoyed is still vigorously flowing through my veins; to feel loved and to experience true friendship is extremely soulful. Life may have its moments, but with a solid group of friends, those who celebrated in New York and those who will celebrate in Bozeman on December 12th, I know that I can overcome any obstacle, succeed more than ever imaginable and live life with optimism and zest.  

It is this type of legit friendship and moral support system that kept Judah the Maccabee determined to beat the mighty Greek authoritarians. He didn’t have the gentile world on his side, he didn’t have most of the Jewish community on his side, he didn’t have his government on his side; he had his father Matisyahu, his sister Chanah, his brothers Shimon, Yochanan, Yonatan and Elazar and a small band of devoted Jews who demanded, and fought for, the ability to celebrate their Jewish tradition in the Holy Land of Israel, persecution free. They saw lots of death in their ranks and too many maimed soldiers in their midst, but they had the wherewithal to keep up a three-year battle because they had each other.

As Chanukah commences Sunday evening and we kindle the first candle of our Menorah, let us gaze at the flame and be grateful to G-d. We are blessed to be on “team light” and to have family and friends who are also fighting the good fight alongside us, as we collectively brighten our world with the light of Torah, light of tradition, light of morality, light of G-d. As we traverse the state bringing Latkes and Light to our Montana Jewish family, we will remember that Judah didn’t need to win a popularity contest on Instagram or Twitter, he just needed his buddies.

Happy Chanukah!

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!!!

Open-minded anchoring!

On Monday, about thirty women, members of one of Bozeman’s PEO chapters who raise funds to help young women afford a college education, joined together at our Synagogue for their monthly meeting. Holly, an active member in our Jewish community and a member of PEO, served as the hostess. As I sat in my office, I could hear Holly welcoming her non-Jewish friends and explaining to them how the purchase of our Jewish Center came about, as she explains the setup of the sanctuary and how we worship. It was refreshing to see a Jewish woman who is confident, comfortable in her Jewish skin, stand with Shtultz, teaching, even inspiring, fellow Montanans about Am Yisroel.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about Jacob’s life in the home and neighborhood of Laban. Jacob didn’t survey the town and assess whether being Jewish, a son of Isaac and Rebecca, grandson of Abraham and Sarah, should be public knowledge or not. He didn’t change his lifestyle, alter his values, to please his new friends. He understood that to survive in our chaotic, sometimes cruel, world, one needs to have an anchor, something to keep us grounded and for him that was the lifestyle he internalized from his Abrahamic family. We can, and should, be open-minded to hear from, and live with, those who aren't on the same page with us, but we mustn't be wishy washy to change our principles to impress them. 

Later in the week I traveled to Whitehall, where a group of teenagers banded together to create a holocaust project and worked with the town librarian Jeannie to bring awareness about the Shoah to this community of one thousand. I shared with them the story of my Zayde Reb Shimon Goldman and what it taught me about respect for all human beings, no matter our differences. I was asked many questions about Judaism, and, like Holly, was able to share its beauty with wonderful Montanans eager to hear all about it.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!

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!!!

Burdensome love!

For the past few months my vision has been struggling, especially while I enjoy my ninety minutes or so of Torah study in the wee hours of the morning. Last week, I visited the local eye doctor and was expecting to hear that my vision deteriorated, instead the doctor shared with me that my current glasses were way stronger than they should’ve been, and it resulted with my eyes engaging in a battle with my glasses, hurting my vision. I got my new glasses yesterday and it seems to be working already.

In this week’s Torah portion, Toldos, we read about Esau and Jacob, beloved twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, each of whom chartered a different path for themselves and their descendants. Jacob and Esau couldn’t be different, yet Isaac saw the best in each of them, seeking to bless them each with a good and productive life and tried, to the best of his patriarchal ability, to be there for them as they traversed the journey of life. It’s not easy to be a parent, certainly not of such distinct children as Esau and Jacob, but it’s a gift to work with them individually, allowing them to be themselves, without overburdening them with the need to be carbon copies of us, their parents. Like my glasses saga, more isn't always better. 

We are told that “the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways”. I find myself at times expecting my children to be me; to love Torah like I do, to enjoy socializing like I do, to be a foodie like I am and to be organized like I am. It’s unfair for them to have to live in the shadow of my unrealistic expectations. I need to learn from Isaac to see each of my children for their uniqueness, their strengths, their special personality, and appreciate their way of seeing the world. We can hope and pray for their spiritual and physical wellbeing, but we can’t dump our hopes on them, because that’s not parenting, just unhealthy parental projection.

If Isaac can cherish Esau, we can all cherish our kids!

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 Rose in Havre!

In a few hours, Menny and I will head home to Bozeman for Shabbos, after our 1,100 mile, 36-hour, trip, ensuring the Kosher status of plants in Great Falls, Cut Bank, Shelby, Tiber, Chester, Havre, Big Sandy, Fort Benton, Denton and Ulm. It was a lot of driving, but I was able to enjoy sunrise near Valier and to say a prayer in Joplin where the Amtrak train crashed a few weeks back. It’s always nice to spend time where the Rockies meet the Plains. The trip’s aha moment was when I surprised my friend at his office in Havre and was able to quickly Lay Tefilin with him while he took a break from a meeting. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we read about Eliezer, the devoted servant of Abraham, heading north to find a wife for Isaac. When he detects Rebecca’s incredible kindheartedness, he recognizes that she’s the one and the rest is history. The Midrash tells us that young Rebecca was like “a rose plucked from among thorns”. The thorns, the harsh childhood with wicked relatives, made her the beautiful rose that she was; it strengthened her, it brought out the very best in her. Yet, when the time was up, when she was ready for marriage, Abraham didn’t procrastinate, he sent Eliezer to bring her home, to the home Abraham and Sarah, the home of Isaac.

There are flowers and then there are roses. There is something really touching about a Mitzvah preformed on the high-line. Yes, every Mitzvah is special and precious in Hashem’s eyes, but I must believe that the more distant the geographical location, the further one is from an active Jewish community, the more meaning the Mitzvah takes on. It’s hard being a lone rose, the soul yearns for connection and it’s challenging to quench the spiritual thirst alone. I enjoyed my time with my brother up north, because it reminded Hashem that His roses are aromatic and beautiful no matter where they may live.

G-d enjoys each rose! 

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!!!

Abraham and the Sikhs!

Earlier this week I read an incredible story about two hikers slipping off a slick rock last week in British Columbia and landing just above the Lower Falls at Golden Ears Provincial Park. By Divine Providence five Sikh hikers were in the area and when hearing of the endangered hikers, they took off their Sikh turbans and used them to save these individuals. They tied their five headdresses together and used it as a 33-foot line to rescue the fallen. As one said “In Sikhi, we are taught to help someone in any way we can with anything we have, even our turban”

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we read about Abraham’s advocation on behalf of the people of Sodom. Aside from his nephew Lot who would be saved by the Angel Rafael, Abraham didn’t know anyone in the region, yet, when their destruction by G-d was imminent, he intervened and beseeched G-d for justice. Though he didn’t succeed, as the sins of the region were too great and void of any righteous people, Abraham was ready to undermine his personal relationship with G-d, his spiritual wellbeing, to help others, even the wicked. Religion that comes before kindness and love, holiness that comes before mercy, is questionable, or, may I say, lacking.

Yet, there is another point I find fascinating in the Parsha. When Abraham, who was ninety-nine, and Sarah, who was ninety are told by the Angel Michoel that they’d have a baby, Sarah laughed, and G-d responded by saying “Is anything beyond the Eternal?”. G-d can do whatever He wishes and orchestrates it to the finest detail. The fact that five Indian natives living in Canada who are Sikh happened to have the headdress length needed to save others, is that not an act of G-d?.  Woodrow Wilson wrote “I firmly believe in Divine Providence. Without belief in Providence I think I should go crazy. Without God the world would be a maze without a clue.”

Human kindness and Divine Providence makes the world go round.

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!!!

What's your Geshmak?

We got an impressive dump of snow earlier this week, along with some frigid Montana temperatures. We had some extra winter hats and scarves hanging around the house, so I asked my assistant Mendel to find some homeless people enduring the cold outdoors and bring them the gear. Lo and behold, one of those who Mendel met in the homeless encampment near Walmart introduced himself as a Jew who’s been homeless since March, and was excited to put on Tefilin and reconnect with his heritage. What started with the simple goal of keeping people warm, ended up warming, not just the body but, the soul of a frozen Jew.

In this week’s Parsha, Lech-Lecha, we learn about the life of Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews. While they were spiritual gurus, sharing and inspiring a pagan world with a firm belief in one G-d, they also spent decades of their life just caring for people. Their MO included feeding, clothing, hosting, comforting, and fighting for, those in need physically and materially. Sure, they never lost focus of their hope that each human being would say a blessing of praise to G-d, whisper a prayer seeking Divine support or that they’d drop their idols, but this power-couple understood that to effect any spiritual change, the recipient must feel like it’s coming from a genuine place of care.  

If a Torah lifestyle doesn’t lead us to care for those in need, then what is it all worth? When I indulge in something physical it’s a form of selfishness, but when I help someone else with their needs, expressing human unity and compassion, that in itself is deeply spiritual. Last week we commemorated the 21st Yahrtzait of Berke Wolf, a dear family friend and a Chassid with a heart of gold. He was someone who literally had a “Geshmak”, a pleasure, in helping another Jew with something practical, no strings attached. They say, “the way to a man’s heart is through their stomach”, I’d add “the way to a spiritual world is through acts of kindness”.

Let’s make One Day, today!

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!!!

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!!!

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