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Weekly Message

My Yizkor Letter...

Dear Mommy,

It’s been a while since I last wrote, but tomorrow night is Yom Kippur and I wanted to touch base. I am clueless as to how Yom Kippur is commemorated in your heavenly home, but I am certain you will visit with your parents, my beloved Bubbe and Zayde, and receive your father’s pre-Yom-Kippur blessing which you haven’t received personally, face to face, since your passing.

Our sages instituted the Yizkor memorial prayer to be recited on Yom Kippur to help atone for our loved ones who have passed on. I am pretty sure Ma that you don’t need atonement, but I will stay in Shul nonetheless. Yochanan, Yanky, Rochel, Mushkie and I will stand in Shul, silently, thinking of you, pledging Mitzvos on your behalf and probably wiping away a tear or two. It’s the seventh Yom Kippur that I will be in Shul memorializing you; my anchor, my friend, my mother.

Sadness is prohibited on Jewish holidays, but Yizkor is a unique type of grief that makes us feel better, even happier; unloading the burden of our memory and bringing us solace. In those five, seemingly endless, minutes of Yizkor, I will have to squeeze in so many thoughts:

Yizkor: I will remember that I was blessed with a mother who taught me the value of family and friendship. You bit your lip all the time, just to keep the peace.

Yizkor: I will remember how much you cried for Chavie and I, both at home and at the Rebbe’s resting place, because you wanted G-d to bless us with biological children.

Yizkor: I will remember how you’d Shlepp to your favorite boutique clothing stores, Widensky’s, Tuesdays Child and Nathan’s, so we were the cutest dressed kids in the neighborhood.

Yizkor: I will remember how much you missed us when we moved to Montana but how proud you were to tell everyone about our accomplishments out west.

Yizkor: I will remember how hard it was for you when Aba’s business struggled in the 90’s and how, despite your misfortune, you stepped up to the plate to teach and tutor your beloved students, supplementing the income. 

Yizkor: I will remember how much Yiddishkait meant to you. You loved its depth and imparted that to your children.

Yizkor: I will remember how much you disliked superficiality, and begged your loved ones to be authentic and genuine. You never needed anyone’s approval to do the right thing.

Yizkor: I will remember how devoted you were to your five children. Even when we gave you a run for your money, we were the apple of your eye, and always came first.

Yizkor: I will remember your decade of suffering and your fight for life. How, despite your pain, you always made your doctors and nurses feel appreciated.  

I will stand in Shul, Ma, on Yom Kippur and I will remember that I was blessed with a mother that believed in me and always demanded more of me. I will dig deep into memory-land and garner lessons from your fruitful life. Everything I do has a touch of my Yiddishe Mame in it. You didn’t just give birth to me, raise me, nurture me and love me; you, together with Aba, made me the man I am and for that I will say Yizkor.

Members of our ever-growing Shul will be standing around me, each in their own silent daze, thinking of their loved ones. I will of course think of my four grandparents, our Rebbe, and all those who died Al Kiddush Hashem, in Israel and abroad, bringing honor to our people and G-d. Yet, above all, I will think of you. Yom Kippur is about introspection and change and my greatest encouragement to do better, to be better and to even think better, is you.

Your kids are doing well, Ma; we are as close as ever. Your nineteen grandchildren learn about you and will carry your legacy, and our five-week-old Chana Laya, named lovingly for you, is growing beautifully and keeping Chavie up all night. All five of your children now have a child named for you. Life is different without you and I don’t cry as much, but you’re in my heart 24/7 and I await our reunion with the coming of Mashiach.

I know you miss us too. So please, Ma, say Yizkor along with us. Say Yizkor so that you don’t either forget all our fun times together and your yearning for us should be as strong as our yearning for you. I know you never wanted to leave, but don’t let distance, both time and space, hurt the precious memories of your amazing life on G-d’s green earth.   

Mommy dear, peek into the Book of Life, if you can, and make sure your loved ones are signed and sealed. If there’s any trouble, use your well-deserved connection with the Almighty to set the record straight. We’re counting on you.  May we merit the redemption and I’ll see you in Jerusalem!

Have an easy fast. We'll talk at Yizkor. 


Chaim Shaul

PS Don’t be offended that I stopped saying L’Chaim for your soul at our Shabbos table. I did it for seven years, but now that I have a living Chana Laya in house, I have a reminder of you 24/7. 

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!!!

Dear Chaim....

On Wednesday evening, we will usher in a New Year with Rosh Hashana 5778. During the holiday service, we read the Haftorah about the infertility of Chana and Elkanah. Chana - childless and troubled by her super-fertile sister Peninah - travels to G-d’s Tabernacle in Shiloh and breaks down in prayer, beseeching G-d for a child. She is then blessed with baby Samuel, who grows to be a prominent prophet of the Jewish people.

When she returns with Shmuel to Shiloh, she thanks G-d. In her words “ For this child did I pray, and the Lord granted me my request, which I asked of Him.” How often do we pause to simply say “thank you” to Hashem before submitting our next request? How often do we see the gifts given to us by G-d and just relish in them? How often do we recognize that Indeed Hashem has answered our prayers?

I want to publicly express my thanks to the Almighty, for all that He has done for my family and I and to apologize for not being grateful enough.

Last night, I envisioned receiving this note from G-d:

Dearest Chaim,

Thanks again for dedicating your life to sharing my Torah with Montana. I appreciate all that you do, but I need to knock some sense into you and put you in your place, so please bear with me.  

I know that you, like all my creations, have “moments” but please get a grip. Next time you are struggling, next time you think your world is imploding, next time you question what I’m smoking, please remember Chana’s words “El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray.”. These heartbreaking moments of life always pass and at the end you will see that I’ve answered your prayers in spades.

When your children are misbehaving, Chaim, giving you heartache, remind yourself:

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray. You wanted a family so badly and look, I’ve provided you and Chavie with just that.

When your child is struggling with a tough medical quandary, remind yourself Chaim:

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray. Yes, they have health challenges, but I’ve also gifted you and Chavie with inner strength and amazing doctors to get you through the darkness.

When you drive 400 miles just to visit one young Jew in desperate need of love, remind yourself Chaim:

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray. How fortunate are you to spend your day on the road, in order to uplift one of My children.

When a Jew increases their Mitzva observance and you’re frustrated that it isn’t more, remind yourself Chaim:

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray. Yes, it may be a bit frustrating, but in My eyes, Chaim, their small step upwards has shaken the heavens and is so precious.

When you think that someone else has it easier or better than you, remind yourself Chaim,

El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray. The life I have given you, is a perfect fit, tailor made for you, so cut the you-know-what and be grateful.

Do you feel me Chaim? I don’t mean to shut you up, but please take a moment, daily, to see how much you’re loved and blessed.

I bless you with a rokin New Year and wish you continued success in making Montana a place that makes Me feel at home. Please thank Chavie on My behalf, not only for putting up with you, but for being an amazing mother to her five Kinderlach and a spiritual leader of Big Sky Country.



There’s nothing about my life I’d want to swap out, and neither should you. Look at your life and sing El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti – For this child I did pray”. G-d please continue to give me what I need to be the best I can be in service of You!

Please take a moment before Rosh Hashana to enjoy this beautiful rendition of  El Hanaar Hazeh Hispalalti , composed by Reb Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz of Los Angeles. The kids and I love it, I think you will too!

Happy 5778!

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!!! 

Shabbos in the ER!

It was the scariest moment of my life. In the very wee hours of Shabbos morning I rushed Zeesy to Bozeman Health’s ER as she continued her downhill spiral that started earlier Friday. I sat near her hospital bed for what seemed like forever: I sang to her, I spoke to her, I spoke to G-d, I spoke to my Rebbe, I spoke to my mother and Bubby, I reached a depth I didn’t know existed within me. I cried endlessly with a reservoir of tears that flowed freely. Our beloved Zeesy was aching in agony, she was non-responsive; this was no good. As Shabbos progressed so did her health and I assure you that I’ve never been so excited to converse with a child and feed them in middle of the night like I was on Saturday night.

We still don’t know what triggered the incident but today I have a new admiration and would like to publicaly salute the parents who have journeyed, or are currently journeying, with their children through health challenges in and out of hospitals and doctor visits. You are amazing. I know, that at times, you’ve sat alone in the “cozy” recliners near your children’s bed and thought that no one cares, no one really knows what it’s like and have felt deeply hopeless. I empathize, I think I may understand a little bit of what it’s like and I want you to know that your children are blessed to have you. I don’t know why G-d, in His infinite wisdom, does what He does, I don’t know why Zeesy can’t “just be like everyone else”, but I do know that when Zeesy opened her eyes I felt so grateful to my Father in Heaven. Sometimes we want our kids to “shut up”, “bug off” or to “go to sleep already” and it’s normal, but how many parents who have lost a child, wished they had your noisy ungrateful rascals?

Just a dose of food for thought.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tavo, we read about the punishments that will befall our people for their spiritual malpractice. Chassidic thought emphasizes that at the core of these “curses” are deeper blessings; blessings that can only reach us via the disguise of “curses”. I can’t talk for others, but Zeesy’s forty-five hour “scare the living daylights out of us” stint in the hospital, made camping in a tent on Sunday night, a first for me, a lot more pleasurable. I don’t know if this past weekend made me stronger, more spiritual or I’ve become totally delusional; heck, I don’t even know what Hashem was trying to convey, but what I do know is that during this week, Chavie I were happy to deal with five one-of-a-kind, occasionally  nutty/wild/insane/out-of-control/spoiled children.

Dear G-d, I got the message; no need for any more reminders! 

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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