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Weekly Message

Dehumanizing Moses!

Yesterday, as part of my morning studies with the kids, we chatted about the Hebrew birthday of Rebbetzin Chana Schneerson of blessed memory, the Rebbe’s mom. Lucky for me, I was able to quickly insert a short JEM film about her life. The kids really enjoyed learning about her journey from Ukraine to Kazakhstan, Poland, Germany, France and later to the United States. While enjoying lunch with Chaya later that day, we talked about how the Rebbe visited his mother every single day, from the day they were reunited in 1947 until her passing in 1964. I find that humanizing our greatest heroes/heroines is what truly endears them to me, and hopefully to my children.

You see in this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira, we read about the one, and truly only, Moses. Interestingly, in the midst of Moses’ engagement with the Pharaoh, the Torah breaks to share with us the family lineage of Moses, Aaron and his son Elazar, and then goes back to the Pharaoh saga. Why the commercial message? Why the breakup in story flow? Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, who is credited with reviving traditional Judaism in Germany, explained that the Torah is humanizing Moses and Aaron. G-d wants us to know that despite the miracles they performed, despite their closeness to G-d, they were first and foremost human beings.

It’s easy, and too common, to turn righteous leaders, Jewish sages and blessed people into super humans, larger than life, but it’s wrong. When it comes to Moses and Aaron, we know their family. They enjoyed a mother, father, wife, sister, children, and second cousins. Yes, Moses was one of a kind, a leader par excellence, a prophet like no other, the Torah teacher of all time and expert plague deliverer, but he was no G-d. The Levi family tree serves as a reminder that humans are capable of reaching amazing spiritual heights.  If your role model is a god, then emulating him/her is impossible, but in our case, Moses is the ideal mentor: A human with high self-expectations.

A noteworthy commercial indeed!

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!!!

A Compassionate Life!

I pulled out of my driveway at 8:00am and returned at 1:30am the next morning. With an amazing delegation of rabbis, we traveled to Helena to thank the Governor, Speaker of the House, Majority Leader, Whitefish Senator, Flathead Representative for everything our state government has done to combat hateful ideologies (See video & article ). We then traveled up to Whitefish and met with the Chief of Police, where he happily placed a Mezuzah on the busiest door at the station, and then held a private meeting with the Glacier Jewish Community where we heard from Rabbis Francine Green Roston and Allen Secher as well as other members of the Jewish community. It was a crazy day, but emotional, inspirational and insightful.

Yet, despite all the focus on a vocal minority of haters, last night my heart was triggered with an overwhelming love for this country. While sitting at Bozeman’s monthly adoption gathering, where we support each other in this journey, a couple shared with us that they have personally fostered over seventy children and still going strong. My mouth dropped! how much love can one couple possibly share? How much pain and loss can one couple endure when they are constantly getting the call from Child Protective Services “we are coming to get the baby”? How much faith in humanity can one couple exude? Their compassion, just left me, an adoptive father, blown away.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemot, the first in the book of Exodus, we read about the first leader of Jewry. Moses was not chosen by G-d because of his good looks, his communication skills, his intelligence or family connections; on the contrary, he was living on the lam in Midian, had a severe speech impediment and had an older brother who was apparently singled out for leadership. He was chosen because of his compassion. When G-d saw how tenderly he treats his flock of sheep, He said “I want him to shepherd my people”. If Americans, like that foster couple, occasionally forget about their selfish needs and focus on doing good, America has a bright future.

As a wise man from Tibet once said “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. 

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!!!

Loving Whitefish!

Martin Luther King Jr. said “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” It’s a Torah idea: Darkness is allergic to light. When one is confronted with darkness, be it a white supremacist in Whitefish, a black panther in Philadelphia or an anti-Israel Jew-hating college student at Berkley, we must respond with light. It is with this in mind that we launched The Montana Chumash Project , with the goal of sending a beautiful Chumash to every Jewish family in Montana and the light is on a roll !

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayechi, we read about Jacob’s final seventeen years, and his eventual passing, in Joseph-controlled Egypt. Torah commentators teach that, as seventeen is the numerical value of the word Tov, which means good, that the best of Jacob’s one hundred and forty seven years on earth were those lived in Egypt. How did Jacob ensure he and his family would have the inner strength to remain devoted Jews in the face of the dark Egyptian immorality? "V'es Yehuda sholach lefanav el Yosef l'horos - He sent Judah ahead of him to Joseph to prepare. Prepare what? We are taught that Judah was sent to open a place for Torah study, a place of spiritual light that would illuminate the darkness.

Montanans are amazing people, lovers of humanity and, as strong believes in the Second Amendment, they protect their families with love. Yet, protecting yourself from the darkness is only part one; part two is to diminish, and eventually eliminate, the darkness, and that is only done with light. As a country, law enforcement must continue to confront ideologies of hatred and ensure that they don’t turn from thought and speech into action, but as Jews, we must not turn into the very people who hate us, instead, we must fight back in the one arena where they have no power: light.

Shine a little light!




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!!!


Yesterday my siblings and I commemorated Yahrtzait; six years since my mom’s passing. It’s hard, I miss her love, the void is still there.  My mom and kindness were synonymous. She’d care for the 2nd grader, who needed extra love while her parents were divorcing, even though the girl wasn’t in moms class.  She made sure to bring holiday gifts to the nurses and administrators at every doctor’s office we visited. She called parents to share good news about their child, not just the disappointments.  She had the quintessential heart of gold, especially for society’s less fortunate. My mom would’ve Kvelled from the fellow in Bozeman’s Target, who, during Chanukah, graciously paid for the entire Bruk family cart, though we don’t know each other. He hoped Chavie wouldn’t catch him, but she did and he just said “It’s the holiday, I wanted to do something nice for the holiday”.

Kindness is everything.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read about Joseph finally identifying himself to his siblings and their heartwarming reunion. It’s a watershed moment in Jewish history and one that changed the course of our people’s journey. While Joseph was still testing his brothers prior to his admission, the brothers said to each other “Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen, that is why this trouble has come upon us”. They were internally tormented for what they had done to brother Joseph, and now that they risked losing two more, Shimon and Benjamin, those guilty feelings were gushing forth and haunting them.

Rabbi Moshe HaKohen, the 20th century Torah giant of Djerba, Tunisia, explained, that the brothers could forgive themselves for selling Joseph, but they couldn’t handle the thought that “When he begged us”, while Joseph screamed for help, they turned a deaf ear. Jews are intrinsically merciful and kind; cruelty is unnatural for the Jew and they acted cruel. They learned from their mistake and so should we. Jews are to be kind and caring and my mother was exactly that. She didn’t seek to solve world issues or bring world peace, she just tried to help the needy child, the hungry street panhandler and her classmates who needed a friend. She didn’t care what it would look like to others or whether it good for her popularity, if it helped another soul, it made my Yiddishe Mame smile.

Be extra kind, do it for my mom!



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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