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Weekly Message

Education 101!

Wow! Wow! Wow! Chavie and I were blown away by the outpouring of love shared yesterday, as one hundred and sixty souls gathered at The Story Mansion for Menny’s Upshernish. Family, friends, classmates and teachers came together from Montana and way beyond to celebrate Menny’s newest education milestone, as a soldier in Hashem’s army. We feel blessed having each and every one of you as part of our life and our extended family.

Interestingly, this week’s Torah portion, Behar, addresses education, but unconventionally. G-d commands us “You shall not work him with rigor, and you shall fear your God”, every slave master must treat their slave appropriately. A slave may be legally yours and may even be accustomedto abuse from a previous master, that’s irrelevant; there are standards which G-d expects His people to live by and maltreatment is sinful. Every human being is created in G-d’s image and must be treated accordingly.

Reb Moshe Alshich, the 16th century sage, teaches that this commandment applies to Jewish education as well. While, King Solomon’s advice is eternally wise and parents need to have healthy homes, with rules and structure, it can’t be overdone. The best form of education is not with the rod, not with the raised voice and not with the never ending threats; it’s with role modeling, conversations and quality time spent together as a family. As Chavie and I embark onto the next stage in Menny’s journey, it’s clear to us that the Alshich understood the depth of education: Children respond to positive experiences and resent preachy, self-righteous, enforcers of Jewish observance who happen to be their parents.

Work yourself with rigor; not your children!

 

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!!!

The Art of Second Chances!

On Thursday, I headed to Helena to visit two Jewish children at Intermountain Children's Home, a boarding school for young souls with behavioral challenges. We spoke about upcoming Jewish holidays, their childhood experiences and we even played a Jewish version of hangman, which I have to admit, was a lot of fun. It bothers me that our society has created unrealistic expectations, hoping that every child fits into a particular box, molded in a specific self-serving form. At Intermountain it’s evident that they recognize that every individual is created in the image of G-d; embracing these kids and guiding them to be their very best.

Interestingly, by Divine Providence, this Sunday, May 22, is Pesach Sheini, the second Passover, where G-d teaches the art of second chances. Back in the Sinai desert, there were a few Jews who, by choice, were impure at the time of the first Passover experience and later regretted their choices. They came running to Moses demanding a chance to have Passover and, while skeptical, Moses agreed to bring their request to G-d. When Hashem heard that a group of sinful Jews were seeking a new lifeline of spirituality and connectedness, He cuts them some slack and generously gives them another chance. Likewise, when we fail and seek G-d’s forgiveness, yearning for His embrace, He, in His infinite love, allows us to come back home.

We too must emulate G-d.

In life, we often tell others "you missed your chance", "you lost your place in line", "you should've thought about that before you walked out that door" or “before you declined that offer”, and while there's lots to be said about personal responsibility and its consequences, the reality is that when one messes up, friends, family and society as a whole, should make room in their hearts for reconciliation.

Eat a piece of Matzah; in solidarity with our second chance!

 

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!!!

Human Sacrifice in 2016?

Earlier this week, while studying Tanya with my buddy Jeremy, we discussed the importance of constant growth and the malady of stagnation. I shared with him that Chavie and I are currently reading a book by Haim Ginott called “Between Parent and Child”. Parenthood, like everything else in life, entails constant growth, never-ending learning and a need to assess each particular child and deal with them according to their uniqueness. I don’t believe in cookie cutter parenting; one size does not fit all and we must have the patience to deal with each soul entrusted to us by G-d with sensitivity, love and understanding.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion Kedoshim, we read about the prohibition against the Molechidolatry. What is Molech? The Talmud explains that a father would hand over their child to the priests of the idol, who would hold the child in the idol’s face. They would then return the child to the parent, who would pass him through a large fire. It may sound wacky, but idolatry is just that. There are of course differences of opinion as to whether they’d sacrifice the child or the child would remain unscathed, but either way it’s idolatry and prohibited.

I know that today Molech is an unsociable concept, but is it really? Do we not sacrifice our children to Miley Cyrus and Justin Bieber? How many hours per day are our kids watching unsupervised television? How many ten year olds are downloading apps on their smart phones? We can’t expect children to be moral, ethical and holy if Shabbat is optional, Kosher is only at Bubby’s house and Passover is for one night instead of eight days! Molech teaches us an eternal lesson on parenting: We mustn’t sacrifice our children; because if they get burned, there will be no one to blame but ourselves.

Self-sacrifice not child sacrifice!

 

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 be an angel!

What an amazing Passover! Chavie joins me in thanking each and every one of you who helped us Shleppand prepare, donated to our Passover fundraiser and attended the two Seder’s, six festive holiday meals, five Minyan’s, and the finale Mashiach Farbrengen. To the families who joined the Matzahpalooza and the Young Professionals who said L’Chaim with us, to the ones who sang One is Hashem with fervor and joy and to the ones who spent quality time with the Yeshiva students; Pesach was special because you were part of it. That one hundred and fifty Jews in our area and seventy five in the Missoula area celebrated at Chabad’s two Montana branches, is a testimony to solid Jewish continuity!

In this week’s Torah portion, Acharei, we read about Aaron’s two sons, who passed away, while experiencing spiritual bliss in the Holy of Holies. Why punish someone for being – or trying to be – too holy? Shouldn’t they have been rewarded for their spiritual aspirations? In truth, however, unbridled holiness is worthless if disconnected from life’s purpose. Nadav and Avihu absolutely meant well, but they forgot the most important principal in Judaism “It’s not about what you want, it’s about what G-d wants”, and G-d doesn’t want souls hanging out in heaven, He wants them transforming earth.

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a day that, for me, is bittersweet. While I celebrate Chavie and the amazing mother she is to our three children, I also miss my mom, who was everything one wishes for in a mother. Chavie and my mom share a common philosophy as it relates to spirituality: Strive to the reach the greatest heights, but never forget to be grounded and balanced. They believe that holiness is not about running away from ourselves and our world, but rather integrating with it and permeating it with light and love. Their motherly instincts are right.

Don’t be an angel; be a good human being!

 

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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