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ב"ה

Weekly Message

I'm in love!

I love “Seforim”, AKA Torah books; I can’t help it, it’s my personal addiction. When Chavie sees large boxes arriving with UPS, she looks at me with that intuitive wifey look, “more Seforim?”. When I was younger, my father and Zaidy bought me a lot of books, my mother knew it was the gift I enjoyed most, I earned many others from studying Mishna by heart in school, yet, my thirst for more knowledge, for another good Torah thought, has never been quenched. My kids know that my favorite spot in the house is the library. This week alone I welcomed sets of the Alter Rebbe’s Maamorim, Aruch Hashulchan, Sod HaHaftoros and a few other Kehot books; they're delicious.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read about the night of the Exodus, when G-d told the Jews to place blood from the pascal-lamb offering and from the newly circumcised Jews on the lintel and doorposts of their home. Hashem then passed over the Jewish homes, as He killed the firstborn Egyptians. It seems clear that during the first Passover, the night that our nation was founded, G-d was saying “I want your homes to be identifiably Jewish. I want it to be clear that a Jew lives here”. We do it with Mezuzot on the doorposts, a Kosher kitchen, dressing modestly and of course having many Torah books throughout the home. It’s a no brainer; a sports fan has team apparel everywhere, political junkies have their candidates’ picture everywhere, readers have their favorite authors’ books everywhere, so shouldn’t a Jew have their Judaism everywhere?

This Shabbos marks seventy-one years since Reb Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson, the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, passed away in 1950 and his beloved son-in-law, our Rebbe, assumed the mantle of Chabad leadership. These two saintly men, and their predecessors, believed strongly that each of us can create the environment we seek. If we want our homes to be football havens, we must have a massive screen, lots of beer, good snacks, mouthwatering wings and a wide array of chips. If want our homes to be bastions of Judaism, where G-dliness is appreciated, enjoyed and celebrated, we must ensure that a conducive atmosphere is created for "Jewishness" to flourish. I don’t sit in my library all day, but when I do, the variety of Seforim nourishes my mind, heart and soul. As Cicero said, “a home without books, is a body without a soul”.

I agree!

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!!!

You're not alone!

Earlier this week, we were joined by Congregation Beth Shalom to co-host a suicide prevention workshop. Leigh Ioffe, our outstanding trainer, shared with us the myths, the signs, the intervention, the questions, the team effort and anything else that the average person should know about suicide, so we could save a life. As a rabbi, too often I’m called on to deal with human hopelessness and it’s heartbreaking. Just two weeks ago, rushing against the clock, I was in touch with my colleague Rabbi Wolf in Kalispell along with Rabbi Secher in Whitefish to help save a Chicagoan life and help the fellow realize that there are better options than suicide.

In this week’s plague-oriented Torah portion, Va’eira, we read of G-d’s response to Moses, after he cried out in last week’s Parsha, “O Lord! Why have You harmed this people? Why have You sent me? Since I have come to Pharaoh to speak in Your name, he has harmed this people, and You have not saved Your people." He sees his people suffering, the people he is supposed to assist, and he demands justice on their behalf. G-d responds this week with a verse that should be on bumper stickers, Facebook posts, and billboards across this union, from sea to shining sea. He says, “I heard the moans of the children of Israel, whom the Egyptians are holding in bondage, and I remembered My covenant.” Reassuring His devoted servant that, though it doesn’t always seem like it, He is totally receptive to the cry of a suffering human being.

America has a suicide problem. In 2020 we lost 48,344 lives to suicides and 311 lives in Montana alone. Why? We live in such a beautiful land with so much prosperity? Of course, mental health providers need to increase their services to help people in despair, but there’s another void that must be filled. Too many Americans have abandoned G-d and don’t experience a religious/spiritual elation. For a Jew, Jewish practice and Torah study, observed with warmth, community and enthusiasm, guides us to be strong, even in very tough times. It’s not the only component, but it’s a big one. The Jewish people in Egypt realized that they had a leader who cared about them deeply and a G-d who hears them, our generation must be reminded the same. Life has G-d given purpose, we mustn’t’ let anyone, including ourselves, convince us otherwise.

Watch this when you have a chance and save a life!

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!!!

Chaya's question about America!

On  June 4th, after George Floyd was killed and riots ensued, I wrote that hatred and violence is never a Jewish option. Unless our life is being threatened, we don’t use force, certainly not behaving violently. Chaya came home from school on Wednesday asking me about the Vice President being evacuated from the capitol building and I didn’t know what to say, except to tell her that “Torah following Jews don’t behave this way”. I know elections aren’t perfect, heck, my mother who passed away ten years ago, got a ballot in New York this year, but there’s an ethical way to fight for election integrity and it’s not by putting law enforcement in danger or threatening the families of US Senators. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the first in the Book of Exodus, Moses sees two Jewish agitators, Dasan and Aviram, quarrelling. When one lifted their hand to hit the other, Moses rebuked him, “He said to the wicked one, why would you strike your fellow?”. Moses didn't ask him to justify his behavior, he didn’t legitimize the hostility, he didn't even wait for him to actually hit his fellow; lifting his hand with intent to harm was enough for Moses to intervene. I used to laugh at Ukraine when parliamentarians threw chairs at each other, but when police stations in Seattle are burnt to the ground, bombs are being sent to the RNC and DNC offices and people dressed like vikings are parading through the capitol in the name of freedom, I think Ukraine can get a lesson or two from us. 

If you know our family, you know that Chavie and I are centrists in our world view and don’t get too political. Yet, there is right and wrong and we aren’t scared to condemn wrong when it’s apparent, no matter the excuse. I have friends who feel betrayed and want a revolution, I have friends who think that this past election, including this week in Georgia, is part of a revolution, and then of course I have countless friends who are losing hope in America all together. I beseech all of you to fight on, don’t give up on America, keep fighting for what you believe this country is meant to be, but as Jews, fight like Jews. Fight with Torah guidance, fight with Talmudic ethics and don’t ever fall into the trap to think that hatred and animosity will bring about anything but more hatred and more animosity. Einstein once wrote “Freedom, in any case, is only possible by constantly struggling for it”. 

Don’t give up struggling, but struggle like a Jew!

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!!!

My time with Puerto Ricans!

After commemorating my mom’s Yahrtzait in New York, Chavie and I took the kids on an unforgettable trip to beautiful Puerto Rico. While there were many Covid restrictions to follow in this “paradise”, it didn’t get in the way of us enjoying the breathtaking ocean, spending quality family time together, distraction free. Before horseback riding in the El Yunque Rainforest, we stopped by a small beach town called Playa Fortuna, where we just sat and watched the waves. While there, a local palm-tree artisan, drove up nearby, sat on the trunk of his car and started crafting flowers for the girls and a fishing rod with a fish for Menny. Despite the clear poverty throughout the island, people, like this sweet fellow, seemed happy and delighted to spend another day alive and healthy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, the Book of Genesis finale, we read about Jacob’s final years on earth, living in Egypt near his beloved son Joseph, where food was obtainable, despite the famine in Israel and the entire region. The word Vayechi, which means “and he lived”, has four Hebrew letters that equal the numerical value of thirty-four, indicating, as the Baal Haturim explains, that Jacob’s best years were the seventeen years with Joseph before he was sold by his brothers and the seventeen years in Egypt. Despite the depravity of Egypt and the spiritual challenges living there entailed, facing those challenges head on, and overcoming them, made those years the best of Jacob's long life, just as fantastic as the years he spent with Joseph back in the day or perhaps even more so. 

It’s an art to experience the bumpiness of life and still celebrate each moment.

It was good for our family to see how the luxuries we take for granted, are not a given for all people, and how happiness isn’t acquired by “things”. You can have “it all” and be unhappy or have “very little” so that a ten-dollar tip is like winning the lottery, yet still live with inner peace and joy. I can’t solve the challenges facing the people of Puerto Rico, but they’ve taught me so much about how we can live  properly despite them. Their roads are in bad shape, the internet goes down often, there are cops on each corner like a police state and many buildings are dilapidated, but the resolve of the people, the celebration of daily life and the lack of Kvetching, will be remembered by our family for a long time, hopefully, forever.

This upbeat attitude is the snorkel that gives us oxygen, even when we feel suffocated!

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!!!

Shtultz!

Earlier this week, I stood with my family at the Old Montefiore cemetery in Queens saying Kaddish for our beloved mother on her tenth Yahrtzait. I recalled a few months back when one of my mom’s cousins asked me “Chaim, what is it about your mother that made you feel so connected?” It’s something I never really pondered before; it was just natural, she was our everything. As I stood near her aging gravestone, I understood that one of the most incredible gifts she gave each of her children is Yiddishe Shtultz, the oomph and comfortability to stand up boldly for what we believe, unapologetically.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read about Joseph testing his brothers prior to identifying himself to them as the “brother they sold as a slave”. When Judah, who took responsibility for his little brother Benjamin, realized that this “government official” is going to take Benjamin prisoner due to a set-up with a planted goblet, he couldn’t stop thinking of the anguish of his father Jacob who had already been mourning the loss of his son Joseph for twenty-two years. Judah had seen enough.  He approached the premier of Egypt and sternly informed him that Jacob’s soul is uniquely connected to Benjamin and that, come what may, Benjamin is going home to Canaan. It is then, seeing the full repentance of his brothers and how much they cared for his baby brother Benjamin, that Joseph reunited with his beloved family.

Judah knew that when a Jewish soul is on the line, we don’t play around.

Me and my siblings aren’t clones and don’t see the world the same way. We view finances, raising our children, spiritual journeys, and life priorities differently and even argue, on occasion, about those differences. Yet, in addition to our deep love for, and bond with, each other, we have certain characteristics that our mother ingrained in our essence. She spent her life being a loyal friend, a kindhearted advocate for all those less fortunate in her community and always standing up for her innate principles, even when they were unpopular. She didn’t blow people off; yet she shared her thoughts bluntly, with a smile, and gave everyone lots of food for thought. Judah had Shtultz, so did my mom, and it’s something more Jews should incorporate. If you share wishes of Merry Xmas more times than Happy Chanukah, you may need a rejuvenation of that Judean Shtultz.

Be kind, be respectful and be a proud Jew; it’s not a contradiction!  

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 Happy Funeral!

…and there was light. It was an epic Chanukah. Over 100 people attended the Menorah lighting with Godfrey Saunders, the Yeshiva students, loaded with Latkes, donuts, Mezuzos and Tefilin, visited Helena, Billings, Great Falls, Livingston, Big Sky, Three Forks, Belgrade, Manhattan and so many homes in Bozeman, I had the honor of sharing the Chanukah light with our State leadership and to wrap it all up, thanks to the incredible work of Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin and his team led by Patrol Chaplain Jeremy Kopp, we had our first Menorah parade with twenty one vehicles adorned with Menorahs, while being escorted through Bozeman and Belgrade by six Sheriff cruisers with lights and sirens. (See the Chanukah photo gallery here)

Am Yisroel Chai!

In this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, we read about the life shift of Jacob’s sons, the tribes of Israel. Joseph, once a family pariah and former servant/inmate, ascends to royalty as premier of Egypt, while his older brothers, once tough cookies capable of taking out an entire town, have lost even the most basic ability to feed their families. Yes, the same men who twenty-two years earlier dismissed Joseph with an unhealthy dose of cruelty, are now beseeching their ill-treated brother for mercy and literal sustenance. As my Aba always says “A Rehdeleh Drait Zich”, the wheel of fortune goes round and round and don’t get cocky when you’re on top, you don’t know how long that will last.

There are times in our lives when it seems like darkness is prevailing, light is fading, and human goodness is all but lost. There are days in which we feel despair, we are overtaken by anxious uncertainty and we don’t know what to make of our current reality. Joseph’s story reminds us that we mustn’t ever let present reality dictate or predict our future. Wednesday night, as we rolled through town, receiving such positive feedback from Jews and gentiles alike who publicly expressed their appreciation for the overdose of light, I realized that hope is real, miracles are visible and we are inching closer to the time when impurity will be no more.

We coined the Menorah procession as the “funeral of darkness”; may it never merit resurrection!

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!!!

Darkness is counting on you!

It has been an incredible week. Sunday evening we enjoyed a fascinating Farbrengen with Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul, Turkey, later that evening a fresh delivery of Kosher food arrived in Montana from our friend Meyer at Weinberg Brothers in Minnesota, on Tuesday and Wednesday, 215 donors joined together to support our Unstoppable Love campaign (you can still donate at www.Charidy.com/UnstoppableLove) and last night we ushered in the Festival of Lights, a holiday with a message that reverberates in our hearts and souls some twenty one hundred years later. No pandemic can stop the yearning for light, the quest for religious freedom and the hope for a better tomorrow.

This evening, before sunset, a Menorah will be kindled in each Jewish home. Though last night we already lit one glowing flame, that didn’t suffice, and tonight we will light two. Talmudic sages of the Hillel and Shamai academies debate whether to start with one at the onset and end with eight at the finale, or to start with eight and end with one. We follow Hillel’s opinion which is to always increase more light, never going backwards in the realm of illumination. It’s not an easy idea to implement in our day-to-day life, but it’s vital. In the words of De Vinci “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation... even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind”.

Baruch Hashem Chanukah is popular. Even self-proclaimed secular Jews, who may even have an Xmas tree in their home, are proud of their Menorah, their ability to sing Dreidel Dreidel and their love for potato latkes. Yet, amid all the fun, it’s an annual reminder that yesterdays light isn’t enough to illuminate todays darkness. As the negativity ups its ugly game, the forces of light have two choices, either be overwhelmed by gloom or increase the glow to knock darkness off its feet and, perhaps even, out of the park. This isn’t an “inspiring slogan”, it’s the cold hard truth: if those seeking holiness take a break, we are toast, but if we keep up the good fight, if we stand up for the eternal instructions of the Torah, we increase a second candle tonight and a third tomorrow night, our influence will transform our world for the better.

You be the miracle of 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!!!

I love my brothers!

Earlier this week I celebrated my 39th birthday. It was nice ushering it in with a beautiful family dinner produced by Chavie with bells and whistles just for the seven of us. While our Montana community will come together on Zoom to Farbreng, as we do each year for Yud Tes Kislev, this year with Turkish Rabbi Mendy Chitrik (sign up for the zoom link here), it was really uplifting for me to spend three hours on Tuesday with classmates, colleagues, relatives and my two brothers, Yochanan and Yanky, on a Zoom Farbrengen with our uncle Chaim Shaul who we adore and respect. It’s been hard the past nine months being away from loved ones, and having two hysterical brothers, who make me laugh and are always there for me, is something I cherish every day.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, we read about the heartbreaking, and heartwarming, reunion of Jacob and Esau. After thirty-six years of estrangement, during which each of their families grew and their mother Rebecca passed-away, these antithetical twins reunite. They loved each other, they missed each other, but, sadly, they can’t live with each other, as Esau’s lifestyle is one of larceny, homicide, idolatry and womanizing, forcing Jacob to keep his family far away from him. At times we overlook the human aspect of our biblical figures; the grief, the hope, the sorrow, and the affection. Jacob and Esau couldn’t live with each other, but they couldn’t, and didn’t want to, ignore each other either.

Reading these stories stirs me to be grateful for my siblings. My two brothers and two sisters - aren’t just pitiful blood relatives who share my DNA, but - are my best friends. It’s not a given, as too many families experience acrimony and separation, so I am deeply appreciative of my beloved siblings. Jacob’s son Joseph had it rough with his brothers too, so did Cain and Abel, Solomon and his brother and too many others; the Torah shares these sad episodes to teach us how fragile the human ego can be and how quick a family can fall apart. I, for one, hope and pray that our family always remains unified; there is nothing like it.

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all!  

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 New "Humane Society"!

 

Chavie encouraged me to spend quality time with the kids on Thanksgiving, so, I make pancakes with Menny, baked granola bars with Chaya, broiled sweet potato fries with Zeesy and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Yud Kislev, dinner together. I shared with the kids the Thanksgiving proclamation, presented by President Kennedy, just seventeen days before his assassination, in which he writes “ On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist .”

 

 

Oh, how I wish.

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about our patriarch Jacob waking up the morning after his wedding, only to find out that he married Leah, the older, less-attractive, sister of his beloved soulmate Rachel. Unwilling to bring shame onto her sister, Rachel gave Leah the intimate signs that she and Jacob had agreed upon, so that Jacob doesn’t catch on and dishearten Leah on her wedding night. She was willing to give up on her first love just to save her sister from disgrace. Yet, when Jacob makes the appalling discovery, he vows to marry Rachel too, despite the harsh labor Laban would force upon him. Though Jacob was G-d fearing and knew of the prohibition to marry two sisters even before it was formally instituted at Sinai, he chooses Rachel’s dignity over his personal spirituality, so that she isn’t wronged into oblivion on account of his “holiness”.

 

Jacob and Rachel both chose benevolence over self-centeredness.

 

It’s a fascinating lesson for us. In a world plagued by “name calling”, “guilty until proven innocent” judgmentalism, acceptance of “destroy a reputation based on high school behavior” and constantly questioning the integrity of others based on self-defined assumptions, it’s time for us to take a good look at Jacob and Rachel. Even when mistreated by Laban, they both chose love and compassion, over egoism and sanctimoniousness. Next time you’re about to dig into someone else’s life, hoping to find something damaging, ask yourself if it’s your place to do so and whether it’s truly coming from a place of love. We have a “humane society” for animals, it’s time to introduce one for humans. JFK reminded us that it’s our role to end misery, but we can’t do that if we are creating more of it.

 

Less shaming; more humanity!

 

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 Papa, the Papa! Tradition!

On January 15th, I was in New York for eighteen-hours and spent a few minutes with my dad. Though we Facetime six days a week, like clockwork each morning, I haven’t seen him face to face since that chilly day in Brooklyn. Today, the 10 months stretch, that included his illness and recovery from Covid-19, ended, and I got to embrace my beloved father; it felt so good, so right. It was also good timing as on Tuesday my father lost his Chavrusa of fifteen years, Reb Leizer Teitelbaum, a brilliant Torah scholar with whom my father studied daily at the wee hours of the morning and with whom he shared a deep appreciation for Torah insight.

I needed his hug, and he mine.

In this week’s dramatic Torah portion, Toldos, we read about how Rebecca encourages Jacob to mislead his dad Isaac and merit the blessings intended for Esau. Isaac undoubtedly knew who Esau was and appreciated Jacob so much, but as a good father, he saw the potential in each of his children and worked overtime to reveal the best in each of them. It’s a unique ability of a parent, either by nature or nurture, to interact with each child, meet them wherever they are at, and have their children, all of them, look up to them for support, parental perspective and life guidance. Isaac knew that Jacob was his protege, someone who emulated his ways, but he also saw Esau - not as an idolatrous murderer, but - as a potentially fearless warrior who can change the world with his inner fight.

My dad can be a tough cookie. He is a no-holds-barred dad who says what he thinks and shares his opinion whether I want to hear it or not. Yet, behind the steamroller façade is a man who loves his children unconditionally, prays for our wellbeing more that he would admit, and wants nothing more than to see our successes as we enjoy Nachas from our children, his grandchildren. When I told the kids that they would see Zayde in person for the first time in eighteen months, all of them, from Shoshana to Chana Laya were truly delighted, because children always see through the externalities, and they know that, like Isaac our Patriarch, their Zayde sees their infinite potential, not their occasional flaws.

I pray that I can emulate my dad; it ain’t easy!  

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!!!

We're not macho!

Earlier this week, I was a guest speaker for two Jewish communities, one in the Berkshires and the other in Northern New Jersey. Though the meetings were on Zoom, it’s always nice to meet Jews of all flavors and Farbreng together for an hour or so. I was so grateful to receive a call Thursday morning from a fellow, living in rural Massachusetts, who was on the Zoom talk and took the time to call me and tell me how much he enjoyed hearing our story. He asked to be added to this email list and hoped to meet our family in person post Covid.

It meant a lot to me.

Rashi

Words are powerful and a kind word goes a long way. At times, we convince ourselves that we’re macho and don’t need compliments or appreciation, but I’ve personally learned to be thankful for those personal “thank you” calls and understand how effective they are and how good they make us feel. More than ever before, I am trying to take time to thank anyone who is kind to our family, our Shul and to those I love as I believe our world needs a lot of positive vibes. In a world plagued by hurtful words, let’s be the change we hope for and start using our verbal power to change hearts with kindness.

Compassion!

Monday evening, just hours before the polls opened on the east coast, I had the great honor of placing Mezuzot at the Bozeman homes of two young Jews. Patrick and Zoe both grew up in Bozeman with a healthy Jewish identity and were excited to get a Mezuzah placed on their front door. Chaya and Zeesy joined me for the Mitzvah and on the way home, while listening to the radio, a conversation ensued about the election process. I explained to them that we have good friends on both sides of the aisle; friends whose wisdom and thoughtfulness I appreciate deeply, and that we mustn’t ever judge someone's character based on the bumper sticker on their car or sign in their front yard. It’s important for them to hear it from me, especially as our country is so divided with lots of hurt and anxiety to go around.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we read about Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality. They served food and drinks, they provided lodging and washing basins, and they even escorted their guests on their way out, so they don’t feel like they were a burden. They gave it their all for total strangers, no strings attached, and here’s the scoop, when we are busy giving, we don’t have time to Kvetch in misery. Maimonides writes  “We are obligated to be careful with regard to the mitzvah of charity…because charity is an identifying mark for a righteous person, a descendant of Abraham…Everyone who is merciful evokes mercy from others…Whenever a person is cruel and does not show mercy, his lineage is suspect…”.

Powerful words.

Abraham and Sarah lived in a pagan world that wasn’t very fond of them, yet they didn’t spend their time bemoaning their surroundings, instead they gave, gave and gave more. They served equally those who appreciated their belief in G-d and those who thought it was ridiculous. They took care of their nephew Lot and those who they would never meet again. Americans, like all human beings, don’t all see the world the same way. Your neighbor, fellow worshipper and work colleague may have different views than you do, but like Abraham and Sarah, we should show them an outpouring of kindness, pure unadulterated benevolence, and it will heal us and our country.

Compassion begets compassion; viciousness begets viciousness!   

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!!!

Vote & Let Go!

Chavie and I voted; so should you. Not because “it’s the most consequential election of your life”, not because “if you don’t vote, you aren’t doing your civic duty” and not even because “you can’t complain about the challenges plaguing our society, if you don’t go out and vote”. You should vote because Jews almost never had the right to join the public discourse and have a say about their government. They didn’t let us vote in the Muslim middle east or in Catholic Europe, they didn’t let us run for state office in Maryland until 1828 and they didn’t let us vote at all anywhere in this country back in 1776. It’s a gift that came to the Jew some two hundred years ago and we mustn’t ever take it for granted. Don’t be anxious, don’t fret, don’t freak out; America will still be America on Wednesday morning, no matter the results. Do your part, vote, and let Hashem take care of the rest, as He always does.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech-Lecha, we read about Abram and Sari (later to be renamed Abraham and Sarah) who are told at the age of 75 and 65 respectively, to pack up and leave everything they knew behind and head out to the land that G-d would show them. It was an act of faith, obedience, that resulted in them inheriting the land of Israel, garnering wealth, having children, winning a war, partnering in a covenant with G-d about the Jewish future, and, for Abraham and the Jewish males, bonding with G-d through circumcision, a sign in the flesh creating an eternal bond. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but letting go of that which was out of their control was a healthy choice that brings peace of mind, heart and soul.

I’m an anxious guy. I like being in control, I enjoy being busy and following a rigorous schedule and I hate, absolutely hate, being powerless. This is my daily, perhaps even hourly, struggle; it’s one of my demons that I wrestle with all the time. In my head I know that G-d is in charge, in my heart I really want to let Him in, but sometimes I simply can’t and so I get panicky. The tenseness never helps, it get’s me nowhere and so I fight back and work hard to remain trustful and faithful and recognize that I could only make the vessel for the blessings, I can only do my part, and the rest, the outcome, will come about exactly as it should, exactly as the Architect Himself plans for it to.

Vote, pray and trust in the One Above!

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!!!

Not bad, just clueless!

Earlier this week, though visiting San Antonio to celebrate her dad’s sixtieth birthday, Chavie resumed her women’s Tanya class and meditation. It was fascinating to see nine women join together on a Sunday morning to speak about, and meditate on, their Neshama, their soul and its struggles. In a world where people “don’t have lots of spare time”, in a society that is overly obsessed with political fodder and at a time when most people are experiencing some level of anxiety due to Covid, it’s impressive, simply impressive, to see people come together to focus inward, on their core, distraction free.

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, we read about the tower of Babel. A group of Mesopotamians were concerned that the great-flood survivors would scatter across the earth, leaving the centralized community, as they each seek a parcel of land to homestead. These “concerned citizens” decided that the only way to stop the scattering, is to build a megalopolis that would include the worlds largest skyscraper/tower, so they can “create for themselves a name”. They understood that to gain popularity, to ensure a self-aggrandizing legacy, one can’t do it without a crowd of admirers and if everyone is living rurally, their desperate need for never-ending recognition, will go unfulfilled. G-d didn’t like the idea and He miraculously confused the builders, thus quashing their plans.

Each moment on earth gives each of us an opportunity to choose whether to live or not. No, not whether to exist, but whether to live; living with balance, focus and productively. Creating a legacy with “things” that don’t have eternal value, is silly and fruitless. The people building the Tower of Babel weren’t “bad”, just clueless and misguided. We too mustn’t spend our life pursuing lifeless and finite legacies, instead, we should create legacies for G-d, for Judaism, for authenticity, for the spirituality that lives on long after we’re gone. Building towers of light and spirit are selfless and provide for us the only legacy that really matters which is a rock-solid relationship with our Creator and a future generation that gets it. Towers of arrogance or towers of holiness? You decide.

Construction is tough; make sure you’re following the right architect!

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!!!

I slept for nine hours!

Earlier this week, I visited five companies in seven cities across north-central Montana to inspect their manufacturing plants, ensuring they’ve earned their holy “Kosher” status. Chavie saw how exhausted I was from the non-stop holiday season, so she encouraged me to leave a day early and get a break. After checking In to the hotel, I spent time catching up on my daily studies of Maimonides, Chitas, Talmud and Chassidic thought and proceeded to turn off my phone, laptop and every bit of light in the room and slept for nine hours. It was healing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. No noise, no distractions, not interruptions; just self-care to give myself the rest I needed.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bereishis, the first in Genesis, we read about the six days of creation and the seventh day on which G-d rested and asked us to do the same. G-d dictates that for the six weekdays (including our beloved Sunday) we should devote our time, energy and money to creativity and productivity. During the week we ask ourselves what we can do to make the world a better place, a home for the Divine, a place of morality, ethics and kindness. Sunday through Friday afternoon we are on a mission to weed G-d’s garden that is the world, but on Friday just before sunset, we say goodbye to the garden, and spend the next twenty-five hours ensuring the health of the gardener. It’s vital, because If the gardener is too tired, unstable or dysfunctional, the garden will never be cared for properly.  

Envision a blissful Shabbos: We come home Friday afternoon, we ensure our home is stacked with Kosher delicacies, eighteen minutes before sunset the candles are lit, we welcome the Shabbos Queen in melodious prayer, we eat an incredible meal filled with harmony and wisdom, we enjoy quality time with our spouse if we’re married, we get a rock solid night sleep, we wake up to a cup of coffee with a dose of mysticism, we hear the Torah being read as we chat with our Creator, we enjoy another stupendous meal, we get a good Shabbos nap or spend time with our children reading/talking/playing, we pray again, we eat a meal made up mostly of fruit and wrap it up with a beautiful hallowed Havdala ceremony. No phone, no TV, no election, no politics, no radio, no work, no market, no business. I did it on Monday, and we can do it every Shabbos.

The Gift of Rest!

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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