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Weekly Message

Don't mess with Texas!

Saturday night was heartbreaking. As we sat in cozy Bozeman opening a few gift boxes from the baby registry, we viewed with horror, what babies, some as young as Chana Laya, were experiencing in Houston. Speaking to my colleague Yossi, whose home, in Bellaire, was flooded, I could detect mixed emotions. On the one hand, he sounded tired and anxious, yet, his resolve and eagerness to help his neighbors was inspiringly palpable (Click here to support the amazing recovery efforts in Houston). I showed my children a few images and videos from the news; I wanted them to see that despite the devastation, America is remarkable and so is its citizenry.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Teitzei, we are commanded “not see your brother's donkey or his ox fallen under its load on the road, and ignore them. Rather, you shall pick up the load with him.” G-d wants us to be of assistance to our fellow when their source of revenue is in jeopardy, as when their donkey is immobile. The Talmud in Bava Metzia explains that the reason this Mitzvah, already mentioned in Exodus, is repeated in Deuteronomy, is because at times our obligation is, not to help the owner reload, but rather, to help remove the load from the donkey’s back. We are biblically ordered to care for our neighbor, but also to ensure that all life, including animal life, isn’t mistreated or abused.

Houston may have a problem, but they have proven that humanity is the solution.

in Song of Songs, the wise King Solomon teaches the eternal truth that “Great waters will not be able to extinguish the love, and rivers will not wash her away”. Indeed, 24.5 trillion gallons of water couldn’t stop the love that flowed through southeast Texas this week. Chavie’s a Texan and they are truly one-of-a-kind. From Fire & Rescue teams to citizen volunteers, from furniture stores turned into shelters by their owners to selfless Chabadnik’s who have spent the entire week helping Jew and gentile alike. This is America, this is Texas, this is Judaism. Harvey, like many before him, have tried to break the spirit of the soul, but like his predecessors, he will fail too.

There's a place not too far away from here…Well they call it Texas and it's a mighty fine place to be”! 

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!!!

Eclipsing the Eclipse!

Sitting on the lawn of Ashton Elementary School in northeast Idaho, I watched the total eclipse in absolute amazement. Yet, I’ll admit publicly, that for me, the eclipse was eclipsed by a far greater wonder, the birth and adoption of our newborn. It’s been six-plus years since my mom’s passing and, ever since, I’ve been hoping for a baby to carry her name. At the Shabbos Torah reading, after reading the words “in accordance with the blessing of the Eternal, your God, that He has given to you” I had the honor of naming our daughter Chana Laya (She has a registry here). She is delicious, cute and so lovable. During these “seven weeks of consolation”, I received mine.

Raising a hand-full (literally) of children, is no simple task. Our world is chaotic, winds of secularism and unchecked insanity are blowing strongly and divisiveness has overtaken our once United States. Nevertheless, we are still capable of raising holy children in the 21st century. In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we discuss war. The Jewish soldiers are commanded not to fear their enemy, even if seemingly mighty. Soldiers that are unfocused, whether newlyweds, new homeowners, new vignerons and those that are “chicken”, should go home. You don’t want a few distracted soldiers, weakening the entire army. In the pre-war words of the priest “Hear, O Israel, today you are approaching the battle against your enemies. Let your hearts not be faint; you shall not be afraid, and you shall not be alarmed, and you shall not be terrified because of them”.

Sun Tzu writes “Thus the expert in battle moves the enemy, and is not moved by him”. The world is a war zone, and our children must not fear it, must not find excuses to dodge the skirmish, but rather we must inspire, encourage and educate them to know the Art of War. Let’s put secularism on the defense, let’s arm our children with so much Yiddishkait, so much Torah, so much authenticity, giving the enemies of tradition a run for their money. Learn KuzariChovas HaLevavos and Kuntres Umaayon with them, talk to them about what G-d means to you, infuse them with logic and faith, giving them the necessary ammo to decimate the darkness, or at least dismiss the temptation for instant gratification. I pray to merit raising my beloved Chana Laya, with her four amazing siblings, in the ways of their Bubby, my mother of blessed memory, who stared at the world and said, “bring it on”.

Our children need not to fear the world; the world needs to fear them!

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!!!

Isaiah Envisions a Museum!

I guess you can call it good planning on my part; hiking the M for the very first time on Sunday, meeting amazing trekkers along the way. It allowed me to see how wonderful humanity truly is, despite the horrifying news that we received from Charlottesville after Shabbos. It’s hard to believe the word Nazi is still associated with living beings, it’s even harder to accept that there are those who hate others based on their skin color, religion, lifestyle or philosophical outlook. It is no coincidence that, although Chavie has been meticulously planning this launch since January, it was the week of August 14 that was chosen to announce the campaign to build The Holocaust Museum of Montana.

Never Again, means Never Again; is that so hard to comprehend?

Tonight, is Shabbos Mevarchim, in which we bless the upcoming month of Elul. It is during this month, during the weeks leading up to the High Holy Days, that we take stock of our past year, we seek to return to our Creator with healthy introspection, small positive changes and unbridled enthusiasm to rock on into the New Year. In the Haftorah that we’ll read in Shul from our Prophet Isaiah, we are consoled “O poor tempestuous one, who was not consoled, behold I will set your stones with carbuncle, and I will lay your foundations with sapphires. And I will make your windows of jasper and your gates of carbuncle stones, and all your border of precious stones. And all your children shall be disciples of the Lord, and your children's peace shall increase. With righteousness shall you be established, go far away from oppression, for you shall not fear, and from ruin, for it will not come near you. Behold, the one with whom I am not, shall fear, whoever mobilizes against you shall defect to you”.

We, the Jewish community, must not fall into the trap of fighting hatred with even more hatred. We must do everything in our power to uproot Nazism from these United States, but at the same time, we must ask ourselves, privately, am I REALLY helping America? Am I contributing love and peace to our country or am I, perhaps, doing the exact opposite? Elul, is days away, and it’s time to converse with our souls. I’m not a constitutional lawyer and I don’t understand exactly what free speech is and what it isn’t, but I do know how Chaim Bruk could choose to speak, I do know how Chaim Bruk can choose to see things, I do know how Chaim Bruk can be a better person. If I shine light, you shine light and everyone else shines light, the darkness will have a rough time and that is the goal.

Think it’s impossible? Daryl David disagrees!

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!!!

My Journey Through Sturgis!

Back in July, we took the quick three-day route to San Antonio, driving through Wyoming, Colorado and New Mexico. But, this week, on the way home, we chose the longer route, through the heartland, lodging in Oklahoma City, Kearney, Nebraska and in, “Real America Up Close”, Rapid City, South Dakota.  The Sunshine State wowed me to the core, as we visited the magnificent Badlands, were mildly entertained at Wall Drug and totally moved by the images of the “Founder”, “Expansionist”, “Conservationist” and “Uniter” carved into Mount Rushmore. Our road-trip coincided with Sturgis, so I had the opportunity to observe hundreds of thousands of, mostly helmetless, bikers and chitchatted with a few of them along the way.

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we read about the Levite family. Moses tells the Jewish people that “at that time, the Lord separated the tribe of Levi to bear the ark of the covenant of the Lord, to stand before the Lord to serve Him, and to bless in His Name, to this day”. Interestingly, beloved 12th century, Maimonides taught that “Not only the tribe of Levi, but any man of all the inhabitants of the earth, whose spirit has moved him and whose mind has given him to understand to set himself aside to stand before Gd to serve Him, to worship Him, to know Gd and walk justly as Gd has created him…this man has become sanctified, a holy of holies, and Gd shall be his portion and his lot forever….”. Yes, the Levite family was gifted to serve in the Tabernacle and Holy Temple, but don’t feel dejected, don’t feel turned off; being in service and of service is available to all those that choose to walk a just path with G-d.

I gazed at the unapologetic bikers. They have their own lingo, unique clothing, music/musicians they love and their very own biker code. I’m not a biker, so I don’t “get” it all, but it seems to work well for their biker family. They seem proud of their membership in the biker community, but don’t force that lifestyle on non-bikers.  It got me thinking: so often Jews apologize. Whether for Yarmulkes, Kosher food selections, Shabbos observance, Yom Kippur fasting, modesty, and on and on, we feel the need to defend our holy choices. That has gotta stop: We are tribesman, holy bikers, Levites by choice, we have a Sinai code, are a family like non-other and are on a lifelong journey to our own Sturgis, AKA Jerusalem. It’s our Jewish style, and there isn’t anything about it worthy of an apology.

Learn from the bikers: have a healthy Jew-code! 

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!!!

Rob in 6C!

On Tisha B’Av, my heart swelled with admiration. Fifteen Jews coming together in prayer, making Minyan in Bozeman on our national day of mourning, moved me deeply. You see, just a week earlier, I met Rob: I boarded my Sky West flight from SLC to BZN.  I was seated in 6D listening to Jackie Mason (no music during the nine days) and the fellow in 6C says matter-a-factly “Hmm, a Yarmulke”. He then wondered about Jewish life in Bozeman and asked, “Do you make Minyan?”. I was flabbergasted. Most people ask, “how many Jews live in Bozeman?”, “how do you get Kosher food?”, “where do your kids go to school?”, “How did you choose Bozeman or was it chosen for you?”, but never in 10+ years has a local Yid asked me that ancient, but powerful, question “Do you make Minyan?”.

My new friend Rob, or Reuven, will be helping us make Minyan soon enough.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etechanan, Moses reminds Jewry that they “are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth”. While Tevye on fiddler-on-the-roof humored us about “G-d choosing someone else once in a while”, we are, indeed, a unique nation, chosen to observe six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, thus shining light unto, a somewhat dark, world. Jews aren’t perfect; we don’t always get along with each other, we don’t always follow G-d’s instruction manual and don’t always sanctify G-d’s name, but we are gifted with unbeatable souls, that, come-what-may, are on fire for Judaism.

Communities are often judged by membership, crowd size, financial stability and other measurements of so-called success, but not In Montana. Ten years out west has taught me that the real gage of a healthy community is bright souls feeling connected to their heritage, their people and to their G-d. We do “make Minyan” more often than not, but the question itself is just as powerful as the actual Minyan, because it’s a sign of our connection. Our community is comprised of treasured Jews thirsting for authentic Judaism, who reach out, whenever they can, to quench their thirst through Minyan, Mikvah, Torah study or just a nice Shabbos dinner.

I am honored live amongst such inspiring Jews!

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!!!

Rob in 6C!

On Tisha B’Av, my heart swelled with admiration. Fifteen Jews coming together in prayer, making Minyan in Bozeman on our national day of mourning, moved me deeply. You see, just a week earlier, I met Rob: I boarded my Sky West flight from SLC to BZN.  I was seated in 6D listening to Jackie Mason (no music during the nine days) and the fellow in 6C says matter-a-factly “Hmm, a Yarmulke”. He then wondered about Jewish life in Bozeman and asked, “Do you make Minyan?”. I was flabbergasted. Most people ask, “how many Jews live in Bozeman?”, “how do you get Kosher food?”, “where do your kids go to school?”, “How did you choose Bozeman or was it chosen for you?”, but never in 10+ years has a local Yid asked me that ancient, but powerful, question “Do you make Minyan?”.

My new friend Rob, or Reuven, will be helping us make Minyan soon enough.

Interestingly, in this week’s Torah portion, Va’etechanan, Moses reminds Jewry that they “are a holy people to the Lord, your God: the Lord your God has chosen you to be His treasured people, out of all the peoples upon the face of the earth”. While Tevye on fiddler-on-the-roof humored us about “G-d choosing someone else once in a while”, we are, indeed, a unique nation, chosen to observe six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, thus shining light unto, a somewhat dark, world. Jews aren’t perfect; we don’t always get along with each other, we don’t always follow G-d’s instruction manual and don’t always sanctify G-d’s name, but we are gifted with unbeatable souls, that, come-what-may, are on fire for Judaism.

Communities are often judged by membership, crowd size, financial stability and other measurements of so-called success, but not In Montana. Ten years out west has taught me that the real gage of a healthy community is bright souls feeling connected to their heritage, their people and to their G-d. We do “make Minyan” more often than not, but the question itself is just as powerful as the actual Minyan, because it’s a sign of our connection. Our community is comprised of treasured Jews thirsting for authentic Judaism, who reach out, whenever they can, to quench their thirst through Minyan, Mikvah, Torah study or just a nice Shabbos dinner.

I am honored live amongst such inspiring Jews!

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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