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Weekly Message

The Storm That Wasn't!

Earlier this week, parts of Texas were experiencing summer storms, and, though the forecast for San Antonio seemed calm for Monday morning, the clouds over the Airport told another story. As I have a semi-phobia for turbulent flying, I was concerned for the ride over to Salt Lake City. As we took off, I said the usual Travelers Prayer from the Siddur, and awaited the bumps, which never came. The troublesome looking clouds turned out to be a very slim layer of slight bumps, and in mere seconds we were enjoying the brilliantly shining sun and the smoothest of air.

Lesson learned.

Just last night we concluded the Tisha B’Av fast, mourning the destruction of our Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Superficially, demolition seems awful, but if the demolition is to create a newer, fresher, more sturdy structure in its place, then the demolition is super positive and growth oriented. G-d gave way to the destruction, to help us repair ourselves, the world around us and bring about the third, and final, Temple. It is fitting that during this time we read the Torah portion of Va’etchanan in which we are told to “love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. Loving G-d with every fact of our complicated being, loving G-d when it costs us financially, loving G-d even to death as so many Jews have done, is all conceivable; but loving G-d with “all my might”, no matter “whatever measure He metes out to you” that seems unbearable. How could I love a Creator who allows me or my loved ones to suffer? To die for G-d, sure, but to live a broken life with Him, how?

As I sat and read Lamentations and reached the words “ the kindnesses of the Lord never cease, Indeed, His mercies never fail ” I felt like I was being uplifted out of my low Tisha B’Av seat. G-d throws curveballs to each of us, they are hard, they are agonizing and sometimes dispiriting. Yet, behind the darkness, above the stormy clouds, there is a light that is bolstered by the challenge. We don’t know G-d’s reasons, but we know the sacred truth that there are reasons and that this relationship, this loving bond, is worth fighting for. Like you, I too struggle, I too wonder “why me, Hashem?”, but I am always reassured that the clouds are temporary and help me appreciate the smooth air and blue skies that follow.

In the words of Helen Keller “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of 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!!!


Ethical Leadership!

Each week I have the great privilege to study with many locals, one-on-one. Bonding over G-d’s wisdom, deeply insightful and practical, is always stimulating and we tend to have lots of fun. Learning with brother Baruch, AKA Seth, each week, has taught me so much. We’ve completed two Talmudic tractates, Rosh Hashana and Avoda Zara, and we are inching closer to the end of Sanhedrin which is a pretty long adventure. In our last study session, we discussed the responsibility of being a Jewish High Court member and the trepidation, fear of heaven, in which that role must be carried out.

In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, the first in the book of Deuteronomy, we read about leadership. Moses recounts his request of Jewry, “Provide for yourselves distinguished men, who are wise, understanding, and well known to your tribes, and I shall appoint them as your heads”. Rashi explains that the Hebrew words for “appoint”, “Va’Asimem”, also comes from the root Hebrew word “Asham” which means atone: This teaches us that Israel’s transgressions are hung over the heads of their judges, since the judges should have prevented them from sinning, and directed them along the right path. Leadership is about inspiring an ethical, moral, and spiritually balanced society. The Torah demands that we find leaders whose character is impeccable; whose leadership conduct role models all the values that G-d would expect of a healthy citizenry.

When those entrusted to lead, especially those in religious/spiritual leadership, fail in their ethical and moral behavior, it’s a big letdown. Yes, humans all make mistakes and G-d is amazingly forgiving, but leaders must recognize the magnitude of their sins and the demoralization it brings with. Moses lost his ability to enter the land of Israel because he made one mistake with the rock, Miriam was plagued with Tzaarat due to a one-time mistake of gossip and King David lost out on building the Temple he dreamed of because of his war time actions. While, sadly, too many have given up on politicians exhibiting true leadership, we mustn’t ever give up on our spiritual leaders acting 100% ethically. If not them, who?

In the words of MLK “The time is always right to do what is right”!

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!!!

Zeesy is grateful!

I was honored to represent Montana in the Ruderman Family Foundation initiative, celebrating thirty years since President George H. W. Bush signed the American with Disabilities Act into law (Click here and then click on Montana). Being Zeesy’s father, a child who has a rare medical condition and as a result has special needs, it was especially meaningful. It’s humbling to recognize that children, and adults, with unique needs, didn’t always have the support of society; parents, politicians, educators and almost everyone used to see special children as burdensome and unworthy of a warm and loving home. It is by the grace of G-d that this has changed, and we now understand that these wonderful souls deserve the same care and life experience as their “regular” peers.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Matot-Massei, we read about the tribes of Gad and Reuven who requested permission to stay on the east of the Jordan River, outside of Israel. They had lots of animals and believed that the pasture in Transjordan was more suited for their needs. When expressing themselves to Moses they said “We’ll build sheep enclosures for our livestock here and cities for our children…” assuring their beloved leader that they will take care of their business and familial obligations, help their fellow Jews conquer the Holy Land and only then return back home. In Moses’ response, he says, “So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep”, subtly reminding them that our priority must be our children, those most vulnerable in society, and our finances, the flock, are always  secondary.

As Americans, we have come a very long way in how we see and treat our fellow human beings. Yet, even today, in our prosperous United States, there are many who struggle, who aren’t ready to face a new day each morning. The struggles may be physical and thus visible, but they can also be internal, emotional or mental, and you’d never know it. Moses teaches us to care for those who can’t go it alone and each of us has the ability to do just that by reaching out to someone, a friend, coworker, acquaintance or neighbor and see how they are doing. Not just to give them the traditional Montana wave but to actually check in and see if you can be a shoulder for them to lean on and a friend for them to talk to.

Non nobis solum nati sumus!

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 have a dream, do you?

Recently, Chavie and I were accused of having a secret agenda when asking a fellow Jew to do a Mitzvah; “They believe that this Mitzvah will bring about the Mashiach”. I thought of that claim yesterday when completing the one-year cycle of Rambam, in which I, along with thousands of fellow Jews, finished Maimonides’ fourteen books of codified law. The 12th century Torah giant concludes his magnum opus with the following words “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God…The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed." Who wouldn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to believe that this is achievable?

This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, gives us insight into the spiritual schizophrenia of humanity. Yes, Pinchas was a selfless hero, Moses a fearless leader and the daughters of Tzlafchad  succeeded in their fight for a portion of Holy Land, but so much of what we read reminds us that all humans, whether by nature or nurture, struggle to live sinless, are easily brainwashed into “buying” negativity and are great at talking the talk while having a much harder time walking the walk. Instead of giving up on ourselves so easily, we’d be way better off Incorporating a Mashiach outlook into our lives, bringing the internal change we so desperately need, so that we can think, speak and act, guided entirely by purity and upbeatness.

Maimonides ends his Halachic code with Mashiach and the new cycle, which starts today, begins with the laws of believing in one G-d and they’re connected. If we internalize our belief in the oneness of G-d, how every facet of creation and our personal lives is G-d guided, ordained and permeated, than we will instinctively want to live in an era where spirituality is the “real world” and temptations, suffering, addictions and strife are “unrealistic”. It’s a shift in worldview that isn’t naïve or childish, but rather optimistic, beautiful and innocent. Yearning for Mashiach, for such a harmonious time, is our way of saying that exile isn’t working for us; we want a more peaceful world, we need a more spirited society and “In G-d we Trust” shouldn’t be relegated to our currency but rather should be engraved in our heart and soul.

I want Mashiach now, how about 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!!!

 

Just ask the anti-semite!

It was heartbreaking to see demonstrators marching in New York, D.C and Los Angeles this week, spewing vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel lies while cloaked in the cover of anti-racism. Every Jew I know stands shoulder to shoulder with the plight of black people; we understand what long term mistreatment looks like and we get how long it takes to heal, but the idea that many who are fighting, and seeking allies in their fight, for civil rights would utilize their moment of pain, their expression of anger, to attack another minority, the Jews, who have experienced so much hatred themselves, is beyond me.

It hurts to the core.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Chukat-Balak, we read about a partnership of two anti-Semites, Balak the king of Moab and Balaam the prophet of Midian, as they team up to curse the Jews and infuse them with negative energy. Thankfully, G-d tells Balaam that he will only have the ability to express words that are placed in his mouth by G-d, and as it turns out, those words were some of the kindest and most complimentary blessings that were ever showered on Jewry. It’s been the theme throughout Jewish history: when paying close attention to the rhetoric spewed against our people, you will find, in their lies and distortions, subtle compliments about who we are, and they are flattering.

When they scream “the Jews own the banks and Wall Street”, it’s their way of saying “darn, these Jews are so charitable”. When they scream “the Jews killed the savior”, it’s their way of saying “we’ve tried for 2,000 years and they still believe in ONLY one G-d”. When they say, “Jews use gentile blood in their Matzah”, it’s their way of saying “we’ve tried to get them away from their religion for so long and they are still baking Matzot for Passover”. When they say Israel is apartheid, it’s their way of saying “we are in shock of how kind the Jews are to all people in the land of Israel, no matter their race or religion”. We just need to learn to listen closely and we will see that they are trying to praise us, but their hatred stops them, so they attack. Balaam tried, Balak strived, Amalek attempted, and the Amorites gave it their best shot, but after all is said and done “Am Yisroel Chai”.

If you don’t believe me; ask your local anti-Semite!

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!!!

When G-d smiled!

Many waters would not be able to quench the love, and rivers would not drown it.

King Solomon's words rang true, as a beautiful Minyan came together yesterday, outdoors, to commemorate the Rebbe’s 26th Yahrtzait and when we reached the Amidah it started raining. The unexpected rain didn’t faze us, and I realized that it was the heavens opening up to us with tears of joy. Yes, we mourned throughout the day and followed the memorializing customs of lighting candles, saying mourners Kaddish and learning Mishnayot in memory of our beloved Rebbe, but these heavenly tears weren’t bitter ones, they didn’t reflect a person who is gone and missed. I believe, Hashem was recognizing a Rebbe who continues to live on in the lives of so many, including in breathtaking Bozeman, and he shed a tear with a Shmeichel, a smile, for all the love the Rebbe gifted Jewry.

You see, being a lover of Jews isn’t easy. In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we read about Moses and Aaron’s struggle with a group of Jewish rebels who questioned the leadership structure instituted by G-d. Yet, despite their unwarranted, and horrific, behavior towards their Levite cousins, Moses worked overtime to bring them back into the fold. Moses didn’t allow his ego and public disgrace to push for his opponents demise; quite the contrary, he tried knocking sense into them, even after their fate was sealed by G-d, hoping their Teshuva, their return to religious sanity, would change G-d’s mind.

The Rebbe had his fair share of Korach’s who questioned, and even opposed, his bold leadership and undeniable love for humanity. Occasionally, they even riled up segments of the Jewish community in support of their dissent. Yet, the Rebbe never saw them as opponents and never stopped loving and caring for their wellbeing. Though today it’s clear that Rebbe’s vision of dignified respect for every living creature, non-judgmentally, is the correct path, not always did the Korach’s get it in real-time, but the Rebbe persisted and love won the day. As the rain dripped on my Talis and I read Korach’s story from the holy scroll, I looked behind me and saw magnificent souls wrapped in their Talis and Tefillin and I knew that Moses, and the Moses of our time, always triumphs.

L’Chaim dear Rebbe!

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!!! 

Protecting my forest!

Earlier this week, I spent time up in Northwest Montana to Kosher certify three “Made in Montana” manufacturing plants. I took three kiddos along, so Chavie could catch her breath, as they enjoy swimming in the hotel pool. While heading to the pool at 7:45 AM, we ran into a big delegation of US Forest Police officers who were in town to serve at the upcoming Rainbow Festival. Three of them, two from California and one from Wyoming, initiated a conversation with Menny that included explaining their dress-code with all its amenities and giving the kids badges, pins, and bracelets. It was good our family to spend time chatting with officers of the law, especially those who keep our forests safe from prison escapees, arsonists, and other potential trouble.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shlach, we read about the Meraglim, the infamous twelve scouts that Moses sent on a reconnaissance mission to the Holy Land. All of them, except for Joshua and Caleb, returned and said the land is unconquerable. It’s so sad that they chose to substitute their actual mission with a naysaying report. Instead of sharing with Jewry the healthiest form of conquest, they chose to disagree with G-d, who already promised we would conquer the land. It’s like a doctor, who was blessed by G-d with the ability to heal, who decides to replace G-d and tell the patient “you have six months to live”. G-d decides “who shall live and who shall die” and all others must stick to their day job, the one entrusted to them by G-d, in the case of doctors, the job of healing those who are ill.

As I was sitting with these friendly officers, I realized that they too have no say about their mission. They get the call, immediately get into their car whether in Folsom, California or Gillette, Wyoming and, with a smile and energetically, head out to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana and scout out the forest, assessing the risks for humans and animals. I, for one, am grateful that our incredible forests are cared for and protected, so that I can visit with our kids without too much worrying about our safety. G-d gave us each a mission, we have demons to conquer and flames to ignite, let’s spend less time swapping the mission and more time, getting the job done.

You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from 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!!!

Moses & Associates!

Chavie and I can’t go it alone. Making decisions for our Shul, for our beautiful community, especially during a pandemic, is overwhelming. We are blessed to have a Chabad Advisory Board in Bozeman, made-up of men and women who for eleven years have been working together for Chabad’s success. Sitting with them a week ago, discussing our options for re-opening our Shul building and the summer plans, we realized how truly blessed we are doing this as team. Each member gives their input, different points of view are shared, and when it’s all done you feel understood, supported, and have deep gratitude for the people who are there for you 24/7 to ensure that it gets done right.

It genuinely takes a village.

In this week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha, we read of the Jewish people’s complaints to Moses about the food conditions in the desert. Moses tell the Almighty “Alone I cannot carry this entire people for it is too hard for me. If this is the way You treat me, please kill me..." In response, G-d instructs Moses to choose “seventy elders”, the same individuals who served selflessly as officers while in Egypt and were now appointed co-CEO’s with Moses. In G-d’s words “and I will increase the spirit that is upon you and bestow it upon them. Then they will bear the burden of the people with you so that you need not bear it alone.” It was an amazing lesson in delegating, one first taught to Moses by his father in law Jethro and now again when he Kvetched to G-d about his lot in life.

It is said, “you can do anything, but not everything”. It is true; only a fool or arrogant soul believes that they can go it alone. Delegating isn’t easy; we have to be vulnerable, recognizing our vincibility and open to the style/ideas of others, but the results of delegating are incredible. Phil Jackson once said, “Good teams become great ones, when the members trust each other enough to surrender the Me for the We”. I’m sure Moses would’ve liked to lead all by himself, but G-d taught him that when we are feeling lost or swamped, bringing in your friends, teammates, supporters and working it together changes everything for the better.

In the words of king Solomon “Two are better than one”!

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!!!

Hating haters?

Celebrating Shavuot together was incredible. Seventy tribespeople came together on the front lawn for sushi, cheesecake, and Ten Commandments and it was thrilling. It wasn’t only an elated spiritual experience, but also contributed immensely to our mental, emotional, and physical health. Yet, after Shabbos, when we powered up our phones, we discovered a country in chaos with no respite in site. I’ll leave it to Chavie to do the heavy lifting of discussing what’s it’s like raising a black son during this time (you can  read it here), as I address a profound life principal that is applicable now and always.

In Leviticus we are taught the eternal rule to “love our fellow as ourselves”. In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we are told that members of the priestly family, Kohanim, are empowered to bless Jewry and when they distribute those blessings, it must be done with love. Their pre-blessing intro is “Who has sanctified us with His commandment…to bless His nation Israel with love”. If you hate in your heart, you can’t be in a position to bless and bring people together. It’s unequivocal: hating hate and haters doesn’t make you a loving person, as you’re still hating and that’s NOT love. Everyone I know, no matter their politics, believes that George Floyd should be alive today and so should David Dorn. Neither of them would be in heaven today, if people lived their life with love.

I know what I write isn’t instantly implementable, but it must be where we aim. How can we discuss love when posting horrific hatred on social media? How can we tell our kids that we care about George when they hear us saying things about other people that seem very un-caring or worse? How can we look in the mirror and scream we want, and believe in, justice while maligning the entire justice system and all of law enforcement? Test yourself: When you awake in the morning, thank G-d for the gift of life and then resolve to love. Yes, love for the “other” who doesn’t look, sound, think, behave, pray or smell like you. Once the love is instilled and activated, it will be so much easier to effect change, as those listening will hear love and love Is addictive.

Love is what you make of it; hate is what it makes of 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!!! 

A match made with heaven!

On Monday we hiked up to the M and enjoyed the breathtaking views. The Tobacco Roots to my right, Big Sky at the center and, I’m guessing, the Gallatin Range to my left; I envisioned Sinai. Two million or so recently liberated Jews, are standing near a small mountain and G-d offers them His love, His wisdom and Himself. They aren’t certain about all the details of his offer, but like in any good marriage, it felt right at the moment, so we accepted His proposal and the details came later. It was a match made in heaven, but also with heaven.

The primary name of the holiday is Shavuot, which means three things: 1) Weeks – having just counted seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot. 2) Satiated – as the Divine wisdom gives the world its core sustenance. 3) Oaths – the marriage vows of the Jewish people and G-d at their Sinai marriage. For me, number 3 is key: G-d accepted us at Sinai to be His love forever, despite our royal failures. On April 11th, 1944, Anne Frank wrote: It is G-d that has made us as we are, but it will be G-d too who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and peoples learn good.

Yet, the oath is a two-way street. Sure, He loves us no matter what, but we love Him too, even amid our indiscretions. The Pintele Yid, the essence of the Jewish soul, is aflame even when externally it may seem at times totally extinguished. I meet all types of Jews, “I’m a cultural Jew”, “I’m not into the religion rabbi but I will fight against anti-Semites 24/7”, “I don’t like the Israeli politicians but Israel my land”, “I don’t like much of Leviticus but I love reading the stories in Genesis”, “Judaism is nice but not modern enough”. Every Jewish soul that ever lived was at Sinai, and it is for that reason that hate G-d or love Him, live by His Torah or don’t, wake up feeling Jewish or not, we don’t know how to ignore G-d, because we can't ignore our spouse.

We honor our vows!

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!!! 

When Jewry went camping!

There's a first for everything. Chavie and I, along with the four younger kiddos, hit the road for our first ever RV road trip. We visited Missoula, Kalispell, Big Fork and Helena and enjoyed so much of Montana's beauty from a thirty-foot home on wheels. Learning to make a fire, emptying the black/grey water, staying at KOA's/Campgrounds, Zooming Torah classes from park benches, biking in State Parks; all of it was part of the experience. It was out of my comfort zone, but truth be told, I can't wait to do it again sometime soon. It was good for me to let go a bit of the "me" syndrome and get a good taste of what "not me" can offer. 

In this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, first in the book of Numbers, we read about the life and encampments of the Jewish people during their forty-year journey in the desert, living outside of their comfort zone. Life in Egypt was no picnic, but the harshness was coupled with stability.  They had food, dwelling, laundering, and basic life amenities; they were in decent shape. Now they enter a barren desert, an unknown place that is uninhabited and certainly an "odd" place to raise a family and build a nation. It is there that G-d wanted their foundation to be structured and solidified. Though they did indeed have Manna, clouds of glory, a miraculous well of Miriam; they didn’t have the cushion of permanence and every day demanded of them to live in the moment and hope for G-d's protection, sustenance and salvation. 

Spending five days in an RV, a place that is certainly more vulnerable than our home, was good for me. When the wind shook the RV a bit I was concerned, when it rained I could hear every drop, when I left a light on the battery died, when I needed to reverse it was more complicated than my car; all of it made life more adventurous, real and fun. It seems like the risk and susceptibility in the unknown creates more excitement, a dose of which we could all use just about now.

"Do" time in the wilderness; it will rejuvenate 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!!!

Take a Sabbatical!

While Covid-19 has made our lives vastly different, some of those differences are quite positive. Sunday morning ten women join on Zoom for Chavie’s Tanya class and meditation, later that day, sixty eight friends from around the state join together for a collective Montana Zoom discussion in which Mrs. Rivkah Slonim discussed “Unorthodox”, on Monday I spoke for a Brooklyn girls high school about living life meaningfully despite the occasional challenge, on Wednesday I gave my weekly Parsha class and later spoke for the Jewish community of North Ranch and Santa Clarita California, on Thursday Chavie joined tens of relatives for a Zoom Shloshim memorial for her Zaidy and every morning this week we’ve had our LIVE morning inspiration.

 

Covid-19 is forcing us to be more connected, more inspired.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, we read about the Shemitah year. At the end of each six-year cycle in which the land of Israel is worked by its citizens to produce sustenance, we are obligated to take a break. No sowing, plowing, pruning or planting; we are simply expected to place our full trust in Almighty G-d. He assures us that He will “command His blessing” to give us everything we need to thrive during this Shemitah experience, but He knows that for us to accept His promise, instinctively, takes a deep realization that the world has only one boss and it’s Hashem.

This current epidemic is one way in which G-d asks us to trust Him. So many of us have lost jobs, have had a reduction in pay, have been furloughed, own a company whose survival is questionable and are experiencing anxiety about the length of this reality and how it will finally end. I get it, I too have a family to feed (It’s incredible how much children can eat in a day) and I too don’t know exactly how this will play out, but I have no choice but to implement the Sabbatical year standard: recognize that the ultimate sustainer of man is super capable of ensuring we are all taken care of, as He’s done this for a very long time with great success, I may add.

In the words of King David “for him who trusts in the Lord- kindness will encompass him.”

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!!!

 

 

Finding Chavie's picture!

Just before Passover, Chavie’s uncle Mendy in Plano, Texas came across a picture of him visiting with the Rebbe on his wedding day in 1990. Alongside his mother, our Bubby Laya, stands his young niece Chavie, face to face with the Rebbe. For over a decade every time a new photo gallery was uploaded to the Living Archive, I would search, sometimes for hours, to find such a photo, but to no avail. Her younger sisters Rochel, Chaya Mushka and Rikal are all seen in the photos, but the oldest sister Chavie was nowhere to be found. I never gave up, hoping to find one and today a picture of Chavie and the Rebbe, eyes locked, is hanging upliftingly in our home (click here to see the picture). 

Today is Pesach Sheini, the Second Passover. In Temple times if a Jew missed Passover due to impurity or traveling far off from Jerusalem, they would have the opportunity to bring their Pascal Lamb and celebrate Passover thirty days later, on the 14th of Iyar. Even if they deliberately chose a path or behavior that kept them from doing Passover properly, G-d gives them a second chance. G-d never wants a Jew to feel like “it’s all over”, “I’m a goner” or “I have no hope”. Making bad choices is wrong and, for a Jew, somewhat insane, but that doesn’t mean G-d wants the Jew to stop yearning, and fighting, for a better tomorrow.

At times each of us feels like giving up. Whether related to weight loss, family relationships, mending friendships, sobering up, quitting smoking or drugs, studying Torah, increasing Mitzvah observance or getting through Covid-19; it gets hard and we want to give up. Pesach Sheini reminds us that with G-d there are always second chances to make first impressions as He’s infinite and past, present and future are equal before Him, so you can be healed retroactively. It’s acceptable to change course, rethink strategies and own our past mistakes, but it’s never acceptable to use our past errors and failures as the reason for today’s laziness.

There is no failure, except in no longer trying!

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 want to be induced!

On Wednesday Menny turned seven with a party for the books. Thirty plus members of our Jewish community, classmates from Longfellow along with Menny’s teacher Ms. Garton, friends from around town and Gallatin County’s Sheriff Brian Gootkin with a team of deputies all drove along Huffman Lane to surprise Menny and bless him with good wishes for his big day (see video here). It was special, really touching; we adapted to the Covid-19 situation and created an induction of joy and fun for all. So many of those driving by commented how grateful they were that we did this, “it was so much fun”, “it’s great to be here with others”, “so glad to see you guys”; all while following the distancing recommendations.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, we read about the priestly service on Yom Kippur in the Holy Temple. Every move the Kohen Gadol made was detail oriented: what he ate and drank in the days prior to Yom Kippur, where he slept, who spent the nights with him, when and where he immerses in the Mikvah, what offerings he sacrificed on the alter, what clothing he wore at which time of the service and how he celebrated, along with Jewry, upon reaching atonement at the end of Yom Kippur. Judaism recognizes that though inspiration comes from within the depth of our soul, the atmosphere around us, can help induce the needed feeling for the day.

We are all struggling as we journey through this new reality. Kids are yearning for school, parents are yearning for a quiet moment, businesses are yearning for income, employees are yearning for a paycheck and everyone I know is yearning for “normal”. Amid all this, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of despair, depression and hopelessness; on some days, I feel that way too. Yet, Menny’s birthday reminded me that simple things can change that mood, by intentionally creating an atmosphere of joy, positivity and optimism. Find a good excuse, a birthday, anniversary, graduation, new home, or anything else you can think of, and throw a party. Whether online, via a drive-through or by meeting in your front lawn 20 feet apart, see, and interact, with fellow humans who you love and you will cheer up.

Create the tone; the change of heart 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!!! 

We aren't toast!

We are blessed in Big Sky Country. While so many around the country are at home 24/7, our family was able to healthfully visit Madison Buffalo State Park and bike/skateboard/scooter our way through Bozeman’s incredible trails while still following the Governors instructions and remaining  “distant” from others. Yet, even with these outings, I am beginning to get slightly stir crazy. As I Zoom study with members of our community each day, publicly and one-on-one, I realize that the biggest challenge of Covid-19, aside from the virus itself, is the national anxiety about the future as it relates to financial stability, healthcare functionality and upbeatness of humanity. It’s hard when we don’t know the future and have to rely on G-d who is the only one who knows how this all ends.

Yet, as Jews we are hopeful.

Today and tomorrow we celebrate 48 hours of Rosh Chodesh Iyar, a month connected to Divine healing as in its acronym “Ani Hashem Rofecha – I am G-d your healer”. In addition, it was on Rosh Chodesh Iyar in the year 370 BCE that the Jewish people, led by Zerubbabel and Yehoshua the High Priest, commenced the construction of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was fifty-three years after Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian thugs burned the first Temple to the ground and now, in a drastic shift of events, Cyrus, king of Persia, encouraged Jewry to rebuild their essential home for G-d on Mount Moriah. Though there were interruptions, courtesy of the lying Samaritans, and the new Temple was only inaugurated under Darius’s rule some twenty one years later, it’s important to note when the process started, as it was a sign of how turbulent times can, and do, change rapidly. The same G-d that allow it to start, can end it in the blink of an eye.   


If you were a Jew living through the Babylonian, Median and Persian reign of terror, you’d think all is lost, the future is bleak and we, the Jewish people, are toast. Yet, five decades later the tides turned, the Holy Land was orphaned no more and Jerusalem shined brilliantly once again with its holy radiance. It’s easy to fall into despair and fret when the world is chaotic and, seemingly, unbearable, but with a bit of prayer, a dose of Torah and a thorough reading of Jewish history, we start looking at reality differently; ultimately seeing it through the lens of G-d which is a lens of sensibility, calm and meaning.

Never give up!

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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