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Weekly Message

Infusion of Chutzpah!

David, a recent transplant to Bozeman, asked me if we could pull together a Minyan for his father’s Yahrtzait on the 6th of Cheshvan. Knowing that it would come a short time after the High Holiday season with non-stop Minyans, I was skeptical, but assured him we would give it our best shot. Thanks to the devoted souls in our amazing community, we did it, and he was able to say Kaddish for his dad on Sunday evening and Monday morning. It wasn’t easy for the guys to come over at 6:45 AM before sunrise, but they did, happily, because that’s what Jews do. The next day I was invited by a local family to upgrade the Divinity of their home, ensuring that every door in the entire home, not just the front door, had a Kosher Mezuzah as we’re instructed. It’s not cheap to buy twelve Mezuzot and to explain its significance to every gentile visiting your home, but if there’s a will, there’s a way.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech-Lecha, we read about the sojourns of Abraham and Sarah. They are commanded to hit the road without a known destination, they encounter severe famine in Canaan, Sarah is held hostage by the Egyptian Pharaoh, Abraham is forced to fight with mighty kings to redeem his captured nephew Lot, he experiences a G-dly vision in which he’s foretold of his descendants enslavement, he and Sarah experience infertility, he marries Hagar and has a child Ishmael, and after all this G-d commands him with his first Mitzvah, to circumcise himself at the young age of ninety nine. Imagine (or perhaps don’t) what it would be like to be told to do this at this point in your life, and how despite its challenges, Abraham does it without hesitation.

We are the descendants of Abraham and Sarah and are to emulate them in every way possible. Judaism is fun, meaningful and spiritual and Torah is stimulating, insightful and authentic. Undoubtedly most of the time we can scream “S’Iz Gut Tzu Zain a Yid – It’s awesome being Jewish”. Yet, there are moments that, especially while living in rural America, it can be a bit tough, necessitating a bit more Chutzpah and resilience. This week taught me once again that we have it in us to go big. we could find excuses to be like Noah or Adam, to be like Eve or Na’ama, but we are the children of Abraham and Sarah and they set the tone for our higher standards.

Noah’s ark was nice, but Abraham/Sarah’s tent is where we belong!

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!!! 

Batman or Superman?

This week, while attending Menny’s martial arts class, I listened in, as his sensei Robin explained to the children the difference between Batman and Superman. Though Batman and Superman both help people in their time of need, Batman only lives as a superhero when wearing his bat-suit, otherwise he’s just Bruce Wayne roaming Gotham. Superman, on the other hand, is Clark Kent 24/7, a unique world-saving Kryptonite who is ready to do what’s right with, or without, his cape. The sensei told the kids that they need to choose whether to be Batman or Superman, to only behave with the proper discipline while wearing their uniforms or will they choose to be Clark Kent and live with this discipline at home, school and wherever life takes them.

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, we read about a young fellow Abram, who was a great grandson of Shem, Noach’s oldest and most righteous son. Abram is accredited with re-introducing monotheism into a world that had shifted away from it for way too long.  Once Abram deduced that there must be a Creator, he internalizes it and launches a lifelong campaign to move the world away from paganism and closer to Hashem. He starts internally with the homes of his father Terach and grandfather Nachor, ridding them of all idols and once he starts, he can’t stop. Wherever he goes, he’s a de-facto Lubavitcher, seeking to sell G-d to anyone who will listen. From those who ate in his home to those he’d meet in his travels, from King Nimrod who considered himself a god and was a self-proclaimed “atheist”, to his nephew Lot, a kid that he raised but was off the beaten path; he never stopped being the superman who will fight for what’s right.

It was tough. Aside from his wife Sarah and a few friends, he was doing his outreach solo, with everyone else on planet earth in the opposition. Yet, with determination and a deep recognition that we change the world through individuals, he pulled it off. He didn’t act like Abram only during business hours, he didn’t wear his Yarmulke only when he was in Flatbush, he didn’t change his morals when he was on vacation; Abram was Abram through and through, authentic, genuine and unwavering. When G-d realized that humanity was now gifted with a holy warrior, He changed his name from Abram, High Father, to Abraham, Father of Multitudes, earning that elated title, for which he’s recognized until today.   

Batman types aren’t bad, but superman style is the way to go!

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!!!

You (and I) are a keeper!

“Indescribable” Is the only way I can sum it up. Not only was It three weeks of heavenly holidays with incredible services, celebrations and community meals, it was full of first-time experiences.  It was the first time that Sarah attended the lively Simchat Torah day service, first time Ben made a blessing on the four species in the Sukkah, first time Rebecca heard the Shofar on Rosh Hashana and the first time in decades that Sheila fasted the entire Yom Kippur, even though it was hard for her. I changed their names to retain their anonymity, but these are all real experiences, from among countless, of Montanan Jews who enjoyed a Jewish “first” at the Bruk home this month. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Bereishis, the first of Moses’ Five Books, we read about the first case of brotherly rivalry that lead to jealous Cain murdering his younger brother Abel. When G-d oratorically asks Cain about his brothers’ whereabouts, he foolishly assumes he can evade G-d and says “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”. This free-thinking, and dangerously wicked, answer has reverberated among humanity for over five thousand years. Am I indeed the protector, the caretaker, the keeper of my brothers and sisters? When a fellow human is being murdered, either literally or figuratively, are we to remain silent and if we do, do we bear any responsibility? Indeed, G-d made it clear, we do! In His words “Hark! Your brother's blood cries out to Me from the earth”.

We must learn from Cain’s dreadful mistake and never ignore the pleas for help whether it be for physical, spiritual or material needs. I’m asked occasionally, how can you and Chavie live with your home being open to the public almost 24/7? Don’t you feel like it’s an invasion of privacy? The answer lies in G-d’s eternal response to Cain: we are always responsible for our fellow. We can’t say “he ain’t my kid”, “she isn’t my problem”, “it’s none of my business and I don’t have time for it”. Whether it’s a student at MSU looking for guidance or a Jewish backpacker in Yellowstone looking for a hot Kosher meal, we are the keepers of our brothers and sisters and should never lose touch with the interconnectivity of the human spirit.

We are Keepers!

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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