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Weekly Message

My Letter to G-d!

Dearest Creator,

I am putting pen to paper to express to You my deep sense of gratitude. I know You hear me praying three times each day, I know You see me studying Torah with anyone who wants to learn its depth, I know You care for my family and community, but today I want to give You a public shout out to thank You for sharing Your Torah.

Since I can remember, Your Torah, its verses, stories, commandments, commentary and life lessons have been a part of my life. My parents imbued me with a love for its richness and I try to do the same with my four children. My Rebbe of blessed memory showed me, almost every time we saw each other, how it’s the “Beste Sechora”, the most precious of life’s commodities. My Zayde would sip tea and share with me his experience of studying it while in Warsaw, Postov, Kobe and Shanghai, during the horrific era of World War Two.

Yet, despite my connection to it, I guess I didn’t really appreciate it.

Over the past few years, as I watch a world in turmoil both physically and spiritually, while I counsel so many souls seeking nurturing and tradition, as I raise my children in a world that seeks to take away their innocence at every opportunity, I have come to deeply cherish Your gifted Torah. No, I don’t always understand everything You command, I don’t always appreciate the nuances of every law and custom, I don’t always come through for You exactly as You request of me, but I have garnered such a deep admiration for the Torah.

Almighty G-d! I am thankful, for as most of humanity is seeking, we have answers. While the world is at times darkened, we always have a bright light. When plagued with uncertainty, we can have clarity; we just need to open the instruction manual You gave us. You didn’t have to, there are times, I suppose, you wonder why You did, but I assure You Master of the Universe, Your people are learning it more and more and connecting with its message in ways that would make Your servant Moses proud. We aren’t perfect and we don’t always see the eternal light, but we never lose hope, because we have You in our lives, You as embedded in Your holy scripture.

This may sound fluffy and unrealistic, but I tell You from the depth of my heart, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I wouldn’t be the person I am, without Your Torah’s guidance, wisdom and G-dliness. I thank You for the gift that keeps on giving and for the moment of Sinai that still reverberates the world over, including in our home state of Montana.

3,329 years ago, You descended onto a mountain in the desert to present us with 613 Mitzvos, we accepted, we rejoiced and are still hanging on to it and will be for all eternity.

When You, dear L-rd, peek over the Bridger’s this Wednesday and see Jews gathered at The Shul of Bozeman to hear the Ten Commandments and celebrate with Sushi and Cheesecake, You will smile, because You will be reminded of why You chose us, the unbreakable Jewish souls, to be Your light onto the nations.

Happy Shavuot,

Your Montanan salesman,

Chaim

Hemingway was right!

On Sunday, with a dry break from the rain/snow; fifty of us gathered at The Shul yard to celebrate Lag B’Omer & Mother’s Day (See Pictures). We reflected on the lives of two exceptional sages: Rav Akivah and his student Rav Shimon Bar Yochai. While they had different life experiences, they each contributed true love to the world. Rav Akivah personified the essence of Ahavat Yisroel, the unity of our people and a boundless love of humanity, while Rav Shimon tapped into the the essence of Ahavat HaTorah, a love for Torah and all its four dimensions, including the mystical. These loves, coupled with a subsequent love for our Creator, gave them constant trust in G-d and an incessant hope for a better tomorrow.

This week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, discusses the Sabbatical year. After six labor-intense years of agricultural work in the Holy Land, G-d commands that the seventh year be toil-free. The land is considered ownerless, open to all for sustenance, with no sowing, plowing, watering or any other field related dealings permitted. G-d forewarns “and if you should say, "What will we eat in the seventh year? We will not sow, and we will not gather in our produce!"Know then, that I will command My blessing for you in the sixth year, and it will yield produce for three years.”

In G-d We Trust.

The holy Rebbe, Reb Meilach of Lizhensk explains that the flow of blessing from G-d to His people is naturally uninterrupted, unless of course, we choose to stop the current. The moment a Jew pauses and says “What will we eat in the seventh year”, the question in itself creates an obstruction in the energy flow that was heading our way. In turn Hashem needs to restart the engine of blessing “I will command my blessing”. Why disturb G-d, asks Reb Meilach, with our foolish trust issues, if we can just let Him do what’s best for us as He always does?. As I read these powerful words, I started imagining what G-d is probably saying when I reach out: “Oh, Chaim, that Bozeman Rabbi, is questioning me again, why doesn’t he just trust me? I’ve always come through for him? Oh well, I guess I can push more blessings his way, but I wish he wasn’t so difficult and doubtful.

Hemingway wrote “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”. G-d would like that too! 

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!!!

Kid Insurance!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with a sharp ninety-six-year-old Jew, Al “Elya” Zelver. I spent over an hour listening to his amazing story; he grew up in California to Polish/Romanian parents, enlisted in the service, served in the China Burma India Theater, Japan and a bit in Korea and is currently writing his memoirs. He mentioned that he once asked his “agnostic” father why he donated $200 annually, a large sum in the 30’s, to a local Synagogue, even though he never goes and doesn’t believe? To which his dad responded, “It’s like insurance, you never know when you may need it”.

This week’s Torah portion, Emor, commences with the eternal words “And the Lord said to Moses: Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: Let none of you defile himself for a dead person among his people”. Rashi, quoting from the Talmud, comments “This double expression comes to admonish the adult Kohanim to be responsible for the minors that they must not contaminate them”.Interestingly, the Rebbe would often emphasize that the Hebrew word Rashi uses for “admonish” is "Lehazhir", which also means "to illuminate", a healthier method of education. While we can have certain expectations from our children, the onus is on us, the adults/parents to be their educators, even at the risk of them de-friending us. Every word we say, every expression we show, every movement we make, is part of their education. They internalize it and that’s on us. 

School teachers are an amazing gift to our society and need to be treated as such. I believe they are too often underpaid, underrecognized and underappreciated. Yet, as my Bubbe Esther said to me more than once “If a child doesn’t have a healthy home, a stable home, it will be so much harder for the Yeshiva (Jewish high school) and Mashpia (mentor/teacher) to make them a Mentsch”. In the words of President Reagan “Our leaders must remember that education doesn't begin with some isolated bureaucrat in Washington. It doesn't even begin with state or local officials. Education begins in the home, where it is a parental right and responsibility.”

Children are insured by parents!

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!!!

How's your vision?

I’ve read that “children and drunks always speak the truth”. Menny turned four this week and Chavie asked him what he’d like for his birthday. His response was epic, spoken like a native Montanan, straight from the heart “I want to go on a birthday hike with the whole family, but Mommy, you can't come because you have to cook my cake”. Indeed, on Sunday morning, after Mishna and Mysticism, we headed over to Pete’s Hill where he rode his bike and the rest of us hiked along. It was special and I hope we can hike our valley a lot more this summer.

Let’s talk truth.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, which is also the Yom Kippur reading, we are commanded “Like the practice of the land of Egypt, in which you dwelled, you shall not do, and like the practice of the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you, you shall not do, and you shall not follow their statutes.” The holy Sfas Emes of Gur teaches that this is a general rule: “Don’t eat like them, sleep like them, talk like them, live like them. Sometimes we learn truths by studying the liar”. The culture of Egypt, Canaan and other unholy societies are attractive, impressive and even seductive, but should remain absolutely foreign to the Jew.

This is perhaps why the verse states “In which you dwelled”. It’s a subtle aide-mémoire to Jewry, when they feel the urge to follow the “Egyptians”, the longing to be “like everyone else”; they should remember that the perversion, they witnessed, didn’t last, as even the mighty Egyptian Empire, disbanded into oblivion.  Yes, choosing to be faithful to G-d, to humanity, to our wives and children, to our business partners, isn’t always easy, but it ends well. My Bubbe Esther always told me “You pay cheap, you get cheap”. When you invest in a healthy life, it pays off, with benefits that are reaped for generations.

Don’t be shortsighted!

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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