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Weekly Message

The Art of Listening!

It’s no secret that relationships with in-laws could be interesting. Many family feuds start with silly personality clashes with a mother in law, son in law, sister in law or even a father in law. In Yiddish,Shver, means a father in law and as many of you know, my Shver and I are very close. I seek his guidance constantly and have him, and my adored Shviger, join our Montana community as much as possible. It’s not only that he raised Chavie and her eight siblings, but that he’s adopted me, his first son in law, and has treated me like his own for the past ten years.

This week’s Torah portion, Yitro, talks about the first biblical shver, Jethro. Despite being a former Midianite pastor of idolatry, a past advisor to king Pharaoh of Egypt and a newcomer to Judaism, his daughter Tzipporah was married to Moses. Now that he joined Jewry, Jethro chooses to give Moses advice about leadership. He teaches his son in law that the key to survival and success is to delegate some of his workload to others. Moses is hesitant, and like many of us, I’m sure he was astonished by the Chutzpah of his father in law mixing in to his life. Yet, G-d agreed with Jethro and told Moses to accept the advice.

Maimonides enjoyed Aristotelian philosophy and quipped that “one should accept the truth from whoever teaches it”. If the great codifier of Jewish law could accept guidance from a Greek philosopher, we should be able to handle constructive advice from friends, family and coworkers who we feel are looking out for our best interests. It’s never easy to be a recipient, giving is always more pleasurable, but if we are to grow as individuals, both spiritually and materially, we must learn to listen to those who can help uplift us, inspire us and change us. As the Turkish proverb says “If speaking is silver, listening is gold”.

Listening helped Moses and it could help you!

 

 

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

What is G-d Smoking?

On Wednesday, I had the privilege of visiting my colleague Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz who is battling the dreadful disease of ALS. He is super fun and outgoing, serving the Jews of Temecula for more than a decade, but today resides in Los Angeles where he’s being cared for by his amazing wife Dina and a great medical team. Although he can’t speak, it was fascinating to converse with him via his Electronic Eye Gaze computer, as he asked me about our family, Montana and everything in between.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the splitting of the Red Sea and our march to Sinai. With musical instruments to rock the day, Miriam led the women in song, while Moses led the men. In the “Song of the sea” they expressed their feelings “This is my G-d, and I will make Him a habitation, the G-d of my father, and I will ascribe to Him exaltation”. While it’s a poetic masterpiece, it’s expressing a much deeper truth: G-d needs to be mine; an internalized reality of me. First He’s my G-d, then G-d of my father. The fact that my parents or grandparents believed, doesn’t do much for my relationship with Hashem.

If our relationship with G-d is never nurtured, It will be very hard to find Him in moments of challenge. We all experience agnosticism at times, wondering “What is G-d smoking?”, as we seek to understand the mystery of His plan. Yet, if we’d spend more time delving into Jewish philosophy and Chassidic thought, meditating on life and its G-dly gifts and praying, praying hard, for inner courage, we’d be better positioned to deal with the crisis’s that, inevitably, come our way. Yitzi and Dina teach me every day that faith is stronger than anger, love is stronger than any trial life brings and hope is the only Jewish way.

I-God; ridiculously powerful!

 

 

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

Don't Blow It!

I am not a gambler or a lottery junky. I don’t think I ever played a scratch off or put a nickel in a slot machine, but 1.4 Billion sounded pretty nice. En-route back from a lecture at UM Western, I stopped for gas in Whitehall and proceeded to purchase a few Powerball tickets. Two well-dressed gentlemen behind me were smiling and about to buy their own ticket. I said “If you win, please remember the Rabbi in Bozeman and help us build the new Synagogue”, to which one responded “Are you the Rabbi from the ElAl plane that came to Billings…”. Turns out they both work for the Gazette and were happy to meet me in person.

Sadly, so many lottery winners go bankrupt.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read of the final three plagues and the exodus of Klal Yisroel from torturous exile. Leaving Egypt was way bigger than winning the lottery, as there was zero natural possibility of getting out, and only through G-d’s supernatural miracles did they experience redemption. Yet, a few months after this great moment and just a few weeks after the revelation at Sinai, the Jewish people sinned with the Golden Calf. How’s it possible? Were they that dumb? No, they weren’t, but it takes time to leave a mindset of slavery and finitude and leap into a life of healthy freedom and miracles.

In life, we experience many winning moments. Great moments of spiritual, material or physical abundance, when we are in a good place emotionally and mentally, seeing the future as positive. Yet, it can come crashing down pretty quickly, if we don’t internalize the gift and adjust to the new circumstances. Yes, you may be inspired while praying, delighted at today’s market results or optimistic after getting high marks on your annual physical, but don’t get caught up in the superficial joy, instead channel those blessings into making the right decisions for the future. Leaving Egypt is a nice blessings but pretty worthless if you waste it on a golden calf.

Next time you win, don’t blow it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Chaya's Tears!

While attending “Aba’s class” early Thursday morning, Chaya started crying. It was while showing the kids a child’s version of the Shamil Niggun, a moving Chassidic melody, which included video clips of my beloved Rebbe at various events during his lifetime. Chaya began to cry, saying it’s not fair, and demanded to know why she can’t get a dollar for charity from the Rebbe directly? Why she can’t talk to him face-to-face? And why she can’t see him in the flesh? It was heartbreaking and warming simultaneously. I grew up hearing the story of the righteous child Sholom Ber, later becoming the fifth Lubavitch Rebbe,  who in the 1860’s cried “Because G-d revealed Himself to Abraham, and not to him”, but witnessing the same innocence firsthand in 2016 was surreal.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, we read of “education for yearning”, as the ten plagues begin awakening the stubborn Egyptians, on the road to Jewish freedom. When Moses is tasked by G-d to get the ball rolling, we are told “Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses because of their shortness of breath and because of their hard labor”. Moses was reluctant at first, he finally gave it his best shot and, in return, he gets a healthy dose of Jewish cold shoulder. The Jewish people were stuck in an impossible life of slavery and hardship, while an unknown fellow with a speech impediment is trying to convince them that life will be better. They didn’t buy it immediately, as it takes recognition and a focused effort to realize that what you have isn't right and to yearn for and believe in a brighter future.

We can only yearn for a better tomorrow, if we recognize that today is imperfect.

Many days pass and the busyness of life forces me to forget that, since 1994, I don’t have a physical relationship with my Rebbe and that my mom has been gone since 2010. It’s not that I don’t miss them, don’t cherish our eternal bond or don't hope to be reunited with them again with Mashiach's coming; it’s just that, as adults, we get comfortable with the reality of today and don’t always have the time to dream about tomorrow. Chaya’s innocent tears of yearning, reminded me, and hopefully you, that our longing for redemption shouldn’t be an occasional experience, primarily when things are tough, but rather a constant awareness and fundamental belief. It could be better, it should be better and will be better.

Step one to freedom: recognize that you’re imprisoned! 

 

 

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

Homecoming!

I just arrived back home after spending time on the east coast, raising awareness and funds for Montana’s Center for Jewish Life and Learning. Sweet people from all backgrounds and lifestyles, who know Montana and love what we are doing, are rising to the challenge to build a home for Judaism in Big Sky Country. Coming home is always special; there is truly nothing like it. When the flight attendant announces “Welcome to Bozeman”, it makes me feel good inside. As much as I love fine Kosher dining and Minyan’s three times a day, home is home is home.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the first in the book of Exodus, we read about Pharaoh enslaving Jewry in Egypt. As children of Jacob and his wives, grandchildren of Isaac and Rebecca and great grandchildren of Abraham and Sarah, the natural home of these twelve tribal families was in their homeland Israel. They traveled to Egypt, upon Joseph’s recommendation, to survive the famine, but were naturally experiencing the negative effects of living in exile. No matter how many years passed, they never ceased yearning for a time when they can leave the spiritual cesspool of Egyptian culture and head back to their land that was a haven of spirituality.

Exile is not only a physical predicament, it’s mental as well. For the G-d fearing Jew and Noahide being strongly connected to the moral compass of Torah is natural. When we are exiled from our G-dly home, when we succumb to the depraved internal voices that beg us to be “Independent” of G-d, our soul begins to yearn for its spiritual sanity while hoping for the day we can land back in our “peaceful Bozeman”, a place where G-d speaks louder than voices of negativity and self-indulgence.

Come home to your soul!

 

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

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