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Weekly Message

Mouthwash for the Soul!

News junkies like me know that when you hear “Breaking News”, “Just in”, “We are first to report” the information that follows is overwhelmingly negative. Today I want to share with you good news all of which took place this past week: Local women gathered for Torah & Tea with Chavie, a dear friend had a cancerous tumor surgically removed and is doing great, I gave a Judaism crash course to group of students from Heritage Christian School, Shoshana (formally Courtney) came in third place for the entire region in her 200 meter dash at Track, a solid group, including a strong showing from the Crow Nation, gathered at a Billings luncheon in support of Israel and finally three new-to-Bozeman Jewish families reached out about getting more involved.

There is plenty of good news out there.

In this week’s double Torah portion Tazria-Metzora, we read about the leper. No, it wasn’t the modern medical ailment of leprosy, as the biblical break out plagued the persons clothing and the walls of their home, but, like leprosy, it was extremely harsh on the recipient’s skin. Why? Why does G-d bring a terrible plague on an individual? Why does the person need to be ousted from the Camp of Israel until they’re purified? It’s not like it’s contagious? Judaism teaches that speaking negatively about others was a prime cause for this horrible experience. If you divide society, shame and isolate others, with gossip, slander and negative talk, you need to have alone time, away from society, so you “enjoy” a taste of your own medicine.

It’s insane that there are members of our tribe, Jewish brothers and sisters, who wake up every day with the intention to smear others within. What they fail to realize is that this behavior will only turn themselves into lepers, outcasts, who eventually will be removed from the camp of Israel. How long do you think it will take until people say, “I don’t want to hang out with a gossiper?” “I don’t want to hear this garbage”? “Show me light, love, depth and not just fear, hate and darkness” “Enough negativity”! The world is yearning for positivity, why not be bearer of good news?  Give your friends and family an ultimatum: either we talk honorably about others or go talk to someone else!

Forever One!

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!!!

Jealous of a Hermit?

With a beautiful Passover in the rear-view mirror, I finally had a few moments to read “The Stranger in the Woods – The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” authored by my friend Michael Finkel.  I have to admit, that while reading, I felt a bit jealous at times, not because I want to live alone in the woods for twenty seven years, but because there is something so sacred about silence. As a rabbi, sermonizing, listening, teaching and conversing is a constant; having a few moments of silence, both internally and externally, sounds amazing.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, we read about the death of Nadav and Avihu, two of Aaron’s four sons. They entered the Tabernacle, into the Holy of Holies, either intoxicated or in elated spiritual ecstasy, and tragically died as a result. Aaron listens to his younger brother Moses extolling their unique virtue, and "Aaron is silent". He doesn't argue with Moses, doesn't defend or debate G-d's actions, doesn't eulogize his beloved sons, he's just silent. The pain was so deep, the hurt so raw and the questions so numerous, that Aaron chose silence and internalization during that period of grief.

In the 80's the Rebbe of Blessed Memory worked tirelessly to have a Moment of Silence introduced into the US public school system. Thirty or sixty seconds each day, where a child can think/meditate about their Creator and the amazing creation, would do wonders for our children and subsequently our society. I for one, now more than ever, appreciate the gift of silence. We shouldn't be hermits, as societal interaction is vital for serving G-d, but an occasional pause to ponder instead of yapping, would do wonders for our well-being.

In the words of Ausonius: He who does not know how to be silent will not know how to speak!

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 I Will Answer My Children

 Monday night I will enjoy one of the most precious moments of fatherhood. My four children will turn to me and ask the Ma Nishtana. They will certainly ask the traditional four questions about the food and set up of the Passover Seder meal, but the theme of all the questions is one: Why are we behaving different? Why are we different? Jewish children, whether in 1492 Spain, 1941 Poland or 2017 Helena ask their father, as well as their Father in Heaven, Ma Nishtana.

I will answer my children with the words of the Haggadah “Avadim Hayinu – we were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt and G-d redeemed us from there…”. I will tell my children, all of our Jewish children, that we are unique because our experience as Jews is fundamentally different. We are a people who have endured so much sorrow, so much tribulation and so much Jew hatred, and yet, we are free. Not only have we been freed from the physical abuse of Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, Rome, Spain, Ukraine and Germany, but we are a people that are internally free; free to fight on, free to remain connected to our G-d, free to brighten the world despite all odds.

I will remind my sweet children that our nation started, like the Seder, with Kadesh, being sanctified by G-d at Sinai. Yet as time passed, we ended up, like the Matzah, Yachatz, broken to many pieces, but eventually, have arrived at Shulchan Orech, a grandiose celebratory feast, each and every time. When we experience tough moments, collectively and individually, let’s remember that it ends well. The brisket – or for my vegan friends: the tofu – is on the menu, but it may not melt in our mouths until we’ve endured salt water, bread of affliction and bitter herbs. As my children fall asleep Monday night, way passed their bedtime, they will know the story of the Jew, not only the story of the past, but indeed of the present and future.

A Zissen Pesach!


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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