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Weekly Message

China Souls!

Last Shabbos was epic. Over eighty visitors to Yellowstone, from around the globe, joined our local community for a weekend of prayer, Torah study and most importantly, delicious meals coupled with melodious song, heartwarming stories and genuine Jewish camaraderie. Included in our many discussions was the importance of nourishing, and even protecting, our souls; ensuring they are able to remain true to Judaism in the face of secularism begging to breach the walls of Jewish life.

It ain’t easy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, Moses is still instructing Jewry with his last will and testament. He tells them “You must not bring an abomination into your house, lest you are to be destroyed like it, but you shall utterly detest it, and you shall utterly abhor it; for it is to be destroyed”. Moses is imparting an eternal message: we need to think twice about what we bring into our home, into our life. One can say “Well, I just want to look into Buddhism” or “get a little taste of Zoroastrianism”, yet, souls are delicate and beautiful like fine china and descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel shouldn’t tarnish or break the soul with ideas that are abominable to their Father in Heaven.

I am not saying that we need to hide in a ghetto or stick our head in the sand, just that we must have a healthy filter, only exposing our brains, hearts and souls to information/visuals that are good for its wellbeing. In Yiddish we say, don’t be an “OiberChochom”, a smart aleck, who thinks that he/she could absorb anything and remain unaffected. You wouldn’t be the first, nor the last, to fail that test. Let’s be smart about utilizing the most important human faculties for healthy and good things.

Let your soul sparkle!

 

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!!!

 

 

Priceless Education!

Today, we are wrapping up two awesome weeks of Camp Gan Israel of Bozeman. Watching the faces of the thirteen campers as they sing Jewish songs, enjoy fun activities and learn about their heritage was heartwarming. In addition, we are also hosting the counselors of Congregation Beth Shalom’s summer camp and all the enthusiastic counselors are enjoying each other’s company at our home. It’s really what it’s all about, caring souls coming together to educate the next generations of Jewry.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’etchanan, we read the “Shema”, Judaism’s most powerful testament of faith. The Midrash gives us fascinating insight into the history of these words: Before Jacob, our patriarch, passed away, he gathered his twelve sons around his deathbed, hoping to disclose to them what would occur at the End of the Days. However, his efforts were unfulfilled, as the Divine Presence left him, preventing him from making this revelation. Suspecting that this was because one of his sons was unrighteous, the Tribes soothed him by stating the “Shema”, “Hear O Israel, G-d is our Lord, G-d is one”. When Jacob heard that they were all sincere in their relationship with G-d, he recited “Baruch Shem", “Blessed be the Name of the glory of His kingdom forever and ever”.

As we seek to inspire, energize and educate the young beautiful Jews of the future, we’d like to hear them too utter the words of “Shema Yisroel”. The Jewish future will not prosper from Jewish kids memorializing the holocaust, eating bagels and lox or saying the words “Bubbie and Zaide”; it will flourish from Jewish youngsters who are passionate about our faith, in love with our traditions and gong-ho about Torah. There is no price we place on an opportunity for Jewish education; it’s a publically traded commodity with a value estimated at priceless.

They are counting on us!

 

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!!!

 

Jerusalem, If I Forget You...

It’s summer in Montana. Gorgeous weather, lots of family time and infinite ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Yet, this week, I’ve refrained from rafting, riding and hiking, as we are mourning. We’re lamenting the destruction of both our Holy Temples, the first, by Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army and the second by the “darling” Roman’s. It’s surely Divine, that both destructions took place on the same day on the Hebrew calendar, the 9th of Av.

Napoleon, we are told, was walking through the streets of Paris on this day of mourning. As his entourage passed a Shul he heard crying coming from within; he sent an aide to inquire as to why. The aide returned and told Napoleon that the Jews were in mourning over the loss of their Temple. Napoleon was outraged! "How come I wasn't informed? When did this happen? Which Temple?" The aide responded, "They lost their Temple in Jerusalem on this date 1,800 years ago." Napoleon stood in silence and then said, "Certainly a people who have mourned the loss of their Temple for so long will survive to see it rebuilt!"

Whether legend or true, one thing is certain: Our mourning isn’t futile and we are not crying over spilled milk. We cry with timeless hope, we mourn with unyielding faith and we thirst with immeasurable yearning. We know that light will ultimately overpower darkness, as it always has, and sooner than later, G-d will usher in for all of humanity, a beautiful Messianic era.

This Shabbat, just hours before the fast begins, we will read "The Vision of Isaiah”. In which our beloved prophet condemns Jewry for their misdeeds. Yet, Isaiah’s “vision” takes on a deeper meaning as expressed by Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev: it’s an internal soul vision that sees a brighter future on the horizon. We must heed the call of the G-dly voice within that beseeches us, individually and collectively, to own up to our mistakes and move forward, positively. This is change we can all believe in.

Aint no one gonna break my stride, Aint no one gonna pull me down, Oh no, I got to keep on moving, Stay alive!

 

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!!!

Jews & Jordan!

The weather was out of this world, so on Sunday, Chavie and I hit the Gallatin River for some awesome whitewater rafting. While discussing worldwide river adventures with our exceptional guide, Tim, I asked him if he had ever rafted on the Jordan, to which he responded “Yes, my mom is Jewish, so when I was on my Birthright trip, I did the Jordan and it was a lot of fun”. He then shared with us a few tidbits about the uniqueness of the Jordan, including that you begin the trip at one hundred and fifty feet below sea level.

Interestingly, in this week’s double Torah portion, Matot-Massei, the last in the book of Numbers, we read about our people crossing the Jordan. The tribes of Reuven, Gad and half of Menashe, really wanted to settle on the east side of Jordan as they felt it was like Montana: quiet, peaceful and great for raising cattle. Moses was immediately suspicious, thinking to himself that they are scared like the spies, and selfishly unwilling to fight with their brethren to conquer the Holy Land. As it turns out, not only were they ready to fight, but they were willing to go in first and wait until the rest of the tribes were fully settled before heading home to the Jordan’s east bank.  

I’ve heard people say “it’s not my fight”, “they need to figure it out on their own”, “I don’t have the time or energy to always stand up for what I believe” and in truth, we shouldn’t be fighting our entire life. Yet, these courageous tribes teach us that when our brothers and sisters are in need of support, whether in Israel or abroad, we shouldn’t take the easy way out. We shouldn’t remain selfish and focused only on our own families and financial well-being, but we should step up to the plate and do what’s right, even if that entails a large dose of selflessness.

We may not always win, but we must fight the good fight!

 

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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