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Weekly Message

Rehabilitation!

Republicans and Democrats have now laid out their vision for our country. I heard people talk about prison reform, supporting the idea that people can rehabilitate. Yet, the same people have easily picked on something their political opponent may have said in third grade, without assuming they’ve rehabilitated. Others are talking about giving police officers the benefit of the doubt, even if there are a few bad apples, but again, they’d never give the benefit of the doubt to their political opponents. Both sides believe in principles, yet they won’t apply it to their rivals.

G-d treats His rivals differently.

In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, we find a powerful reminder about rehabilitation. It was just a short two weeks ago that we read about Korach, his rebellion against Moses and his eventual demise as the earth swallowed him and his people up alive.  Yet, this week the Torah tells us “Korach's sons, however, did not die.”. How’s that possible? Our sages teach that just as the earth began to swallow the rebels, Korach’s son’s repented, they genuinely regretted their choice and G-d accepted their Teshuva, their return. They were kept alive beneath the earth and later emerged. If one changes sincerely, even if inspired by oncoming death, G-d appreciates it and allows us to come home. Korach's boys did a complete 180, to the point that there are Psalms, which we sing in our prayers, which they composed.

No one is perfect, no one. King Solomon taught almost three thousand years ago “For there is no righteous man on earth who does good and sins not.” #nevertrump #bernorbust #jillnothill#‎legalizefreedom; in today’s world of social media and hashtag conventions, we seem to be searching for a new God or Messiah to create a utopian America. We forget that G-d is the only perfect being, there is only one Messiah who hasn’t been sent to redeem us yet, and everyone else are humans who make mistakes and should be allowed to rehabilitate. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying you should trust every deceiving individual running for office, but learn from G-d, who accepted Korach’s sons, even though they fought against the system that He, in His infinite wisdom, had created.

Don’t assume the worst; give the benefit of the doubt! 

 

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!!!

So Much Good!

Flying to New York for one night is never easy, but this time it was certainly worth the Schlepp. On Tuesday evening, I had the honor to address a few hundred Brooklyn Jews, sharing with them the story of our journey through infertility, adoption and raising Zeesy, a child with special needs. While Yaldei Shluchei HaRebbe, the organization I spoke for, and countless others, service our people with unconditional love, standing up and talking openly about the details of a challenging journey, is still somewhat taboo and I was happy to break the barriers. For me, what was most incredible, was to be in a room of people who barely knew me or any of the other recipients of Yaldei’s support, but are ready to lend a hand to help a brother and sister in need.

In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, we read a fascinating tale of illogical hatred. Balak, King of Moab hiresBalaam, the prophet of Midian, to curse the Jewish people. Balaam warns Balak that he can’t promise him success and that the so called “curses” can, with the help of G-d, turn into a positive blessing for the Jews. Balak’s hatred was so deep that he was ready to risk it. Indeed, instead of spewing negativity and focusing on all that’s wrong with the Jews, Balaam prophesizes some of the most beautiful things about Jewry and their future. Perhaps the most famous phrase from Balaam words is “Ma Tovu”, how goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!

Humanity has a flawed tendency to focus on everything that’s wrong. “If only I was Prime Minister of Israel”, “if I was the Rabbi”, “if I was in their place”, “I can’t believe you did that”, “what did he say?”...These are just some common terms heard regularly. While I agree with the need for self-introspection and constructive criticism, as it allows us to grow and be a better version of ourselves, we need to spend most of our time focused on the things we get right. There is no other group of people in the world that care for each other more than Klal Yisroel. There isn’t a need we don’t support and one is almost never alone. When we feel the need to “curse” our people, let’s do what Balaam did and channel the energy to honor and bless, talking about all the good that’s being done.

Who is like your people Israel?

 

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!!!

Like a Good Neighbor...

I write today, while en route to Queens, New York, where I will spend Shabbos with thousands of my brothers, fellow Chassidim, coming together to commemorate the 22nd Yahrtzait of our beloved Rebbe. This weekend will be tough, filled with conflicting feelings. I mourn the Rebbe's absence so deeply, but also seek to remain connected to this soulful giant. You see, the Rebbe wasn't only a revolutionary, a man who changed the landscape of Judaism but was also a loving father figure, who shared his wise life perspective to all who sought it, including my parents. He knew my name, he spoke to me, he welcomed our family at his office and accepted a Schneerson family heirloom my father had acquired for him and even guided us to the right physicians, when experiencing challenging medical dilemmas.

There is so much that I miss.

In this week's Torah portion, Korach, we read of this "fine gentleman" who organized a rebellion against Moses, Aaron and ultimately G-d. He used "equality" as his cover to demand more power for himself. Interestingly, a large group of the rebels were from the tribe of Reuven. Why Reuven? Rashi explains that they were neighbors with Korach's family and neighbors have influence, either good or bad. On a basic level, the Torah is teaching that we are responsible for who we hang with, but i think it's a lot deeper.

In the 40's, 50's and all through the 20th century, rabbis and community activist believed that if another Jew is rebellious, behaving like Korach, we need to choose wisely and distance ourselves from them for our own spiritual security. Staying in the ghetto was their response to secularism and assimilation. The Rebbe learned the same Rashi but understood it to mean, that neighbors can have influence, so why not send Chassidim to communities all across the globe, so they can inspire their brothers and sisters with a refreshed belief in G-d, an invigorated observance of Mitzvot and an opportunity to experience authentic Judaism. Rashi can either be a scare tactic or an inspiration.

As I pray, sing, study and Farbreng this weekend, I will ask myself again and again, have I been a good neighbor? Have I given it all I got to inspire Montanan Jewry with a love for G-d, Israel and Torah? Have I lived up to my Rebbe's high expectations of neighborly love? I don't know what the answer will be regarding the past, but I do know that the introspection will lead to a renewed commitment to make Bozeman and all of Montana, the most spiritual neighborhood in the world.

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

The Miracle of Champions!

Our family was deeply honored to spend four days representing Montana in DC. Zeesy, Montana's champion child, along with champion children from all fifty states and Porto Rico, joined with their families, for an extraordinary experience of a lifetime. Visiting with the Surgeon General, lunch in the Capitol with both Montana Senators, Zeesy dancing on stage with Miss America, attending a Nationals baseball game and spending ninety six hours with bright souls, who have been severely challenged, but have stood up to the plate to overcome, grow and persevere.

In this week's Torah portion, Shlach, we delve into the mindset of the infamous spies, who “gifted” the Jews with thirty nine bonus years in the desert. What was it about their actions that brought about such devastation for our people? It’s simple: They were asked to help withstrategy, not policy. They were instructed to report back to Moses with the most viable approach for conquering Canaan – Israel, not whether it was a worthwhile endeavor or not. As humans, the giants, oversized fruits and fortified cities can be frightening and intimidating but they should've seen the land and its inhabitants through the lens of G-d, not their own.

Sitting in a room of champions, who are each a gem, gifted by G-d to their parents, family and the world, was empowering. We may perceive these souls as a challenge, burden or even hopeless, but they aren't. They are beautiful, powerful, special, lovable and mostly, courageous children who, together with their parents, siblings and doctors, fight the battle of life and do so with miraculous strength. Many Americans are like the spies, looking at a life, at a child, from a purely selfish outlook, but this trip reminded me that we must look at a child from G-d's lenses and those heavenly spectacles are 20/20.

Exceptional, not handicap!

 

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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