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Weekly Message

More than just a potato Knish!

On Tuesday, Chana Laya’s first day at Bozeman Montessori, our family hosted Mary Brennan, her teacher in the Nido class, at our home. During dinner, I asked Mary Brennan why she chose to do this kind of work, she responded “I believe that working with the children in the classroom allows me to change the world”. So, puzzled, I asked her “even at the infant age of six months?”, to which she responded, “Oh yeah, it’s amazing what they learn in their youth, especially at this young age”. Naturally, our conversation got me thinking about Jewish education.

Why should I Shelpp my baby to hear the Ten Commandments on Shavuot? Who needs these “wild” kids to stay up until nightfall to eat Matzah at the Seder and ask the Ma Nishtana? Why is it important to fly a Mohel to Montana to give my baby boy a proper Bris? Isn’t a doctor enough? The Torah answers this with the famous verse “For the man is the three of the field”. If we’d like our children to grow to be strong, fruitful and healthy trees, we must ensure that their roots are strong, hence the focus on the years of their youth. Throwing around a few Yiddish terms like “A Bissel”, “Shaine Punim” and “Nudnik”, while scarfing down Rugelach and potato Knish’s, will not strengthen their roots; bringing them to Shul regularly, increasing Kosher in the home and taking them out of school for Biblical Jewish holidays will leave an indelible mark on their character.

On Thursday we will joyfully celebrate Purim. We all know about evil Haman, awesome Mordechai and heroic Esther, what we may not know about is the role the children played in the story. The Midrash writes that “Haman found Mordechai in the study hall with twenty-two thousand childrendressed in sackcloth learning Torah and crying out to G-d in prayer. Haman bound them in chains and told them that the next day they would be the first to be slain followed by Mordechai. The mothers of these children wanted to send food, but the children would rather fast and weep for the salvation of their people. Their cries went straight up to heaven. G-d heard them and arose from His seat of judgment to go sit on His seat of mercy. At that moment, G-d tore up the evil decree against Jewry”. Don’t misuse the youth years of your child.

Xbox won’t do it!

 

 

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!!!

Planting Hope!

While I’d much rather write about Shoshana’s track competition, Rabbi Manis Friedman’s enlightening book launch and perhaps my visit to Dillon to speak at UM Western, I can’t ignore the horrific reality out of Parkland, Florida. There were things that, on occasion, would interfere with my positive school experience. Bullies, boredom, bad lunches, un-athlete abilities, teachers who were out to lunch, but I can’t even imagine how frightening It would be hiding in a closet for hours, texting my parents “I love you, thanks for everything”, not knowing if a mentally disturbed young man was going to murder me in mere moments.

When feeling helpless, we need signs of hope.

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the Tabernacle. When building the Holy Ark, they needed acacia wood, yet, unlike other materials, they didn’t have to buy it from the traveling merchants; they had it already. Where from? Rabbi Tanchuma explained that our forefather Jacob foresaw with the holy spirit that the Israelites were destined to build a tabernacle in the desert, so he brought cedars to Egypt and planted them. He commanded his sons to take them with them when they left EgyptTanchuma, from the word Nechama, means comfort. Jacob planted trees of comfort for his Jewish family, so that throughout their horrific enslavement, they should always see and know that freedom is inevitable and there are brighter/liberating days ahead.

We need to plant our own cedar trees. We need to plant trees of hope, showing our youngsters that we care deeply about these heartless school shootings. Yes, we care deeply about the seventeen families who have lost a love one and will never be the same, but that’s not enough. We MUST tackle the mental illness issues embedded in our society. We can’t sweep it under the rug, we can’t stigmatize therapy, counseling and medications and we can’t ignore signs that indicate trouble may be on the horizon. Until Mashiach comes, we won’t be able to stop all violence and terror, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop some of it. Let’s show our kids a little less gun violence on TV and video games, let’s teach our children to be more delicate with, and not make fun of, those who who are different and let’s answer all the warning calls, so we don’t end up here again.

May G-d comfort the mourning families, the people of Florida and our beloved USA!

 

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!!!

Thank You Chavie!

Job well done, Verizon. In their Super Bowl ad "Answering the Call” they thanked first responders who sacrifice for total strangers, and they asked us to do the same. Recently I’ve been reading with Chaya the story of the pilgrims. William and Dorothy Bradford wanted to create a colony in the new world that would be founded on the principal of individual freedom. Yet, they understood that the voyage would be tough, so they left their only son, three-year-old John, behind in Holland, until the time would be ripe for him to join them. Sacrifice is never easy, sometimes even illogical, which is why we admire those who choose that path.

On Wednesday, Chabad Chassidim commemorated the 30th Yahrtzait anniversary of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, the Rebbe’s beloved wife of almost sixty years. Growing up in Crown Heights, a mere three blocks away from their home, I never merited to see the Rebbetzin, nor did my mother who grew up in the same neighborhood. The Rebbetzin was extremely private, would refer to herself as “Mrs. Schneerson” when calling the local groceries and was the prime reason The Rebbe agreed to assume the leadership of “Lubavitch” when his father-in-law passed away in 1950. She could’ve kept the Rebbe for herself, they could’ve continued living a private life like they did in Berlin, Paris and for a decade in New York, but she sacrificed that life so that the world could have a Rebbe.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read that “you shall not mistreat a stranger, nor shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” G-d wants us to recognize the sacrifice of the convert; the life and lifestyle, the family and friends, they’ve given up becoming a Jew, and forewarns us about mistreating them. Today I say thank you publicly to the Rebbetzin. All those moments that the Rebbe spent with me, talking to me, giving me dollars for charity and blessings for my birthday, writing letters to my parents for my birth and Upshernish, those were moments that belonged to her, it was her husband, and she gave them to me, to the world.

Chavie is spending a few days in Brooklyn celebrating the Rebbetzin’s life with thousands of her peers from around the globe. These amazing women are, at times, less noticed than their husbands who are running around visiting prisons, addressing communal issues, raising funds and drinking lots of coffee with lots of people. Yet, I assure you that without my bedrock Chavie, like with the Rebbe and Rebbetzin, I would never be able to do what I do, never be able to spend the hours I do and never be able to push through those unbearable moments of challenge. Thank you dear Chavie for your enormous sacrifice, being my Rebbetzin, my anchor, and the amazing mother of our five children.

What is mine and what is yours, is hers!

 

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!!!

In Search of a Jewish Bible!

On Monday, while getting my flu shot, the pharmacist asked me if I knew where she could get a “Jewish Bible”, so that she can learn “it” from the “Jewish perspective”. I told her I could get her a copy and she was delighted. It happens almost every week, a gentile reaches out, be it by phone, email or in person, to get an authentic Torah book so they can enrich their lives from Moses’ Five Books. I don’t know if this is the rabbinic experience elsewhere, but it’s refreshing to me, that in Big Sky Country people are seeking the light of Judaism.

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we experience the ultimate revelation; G-d giving the Torah at Sinai. While humanity has an impressive list of marvelous, yet extremely debatable, spiritual moments, none, besides Sinai, have been authenticated by millions of witnesses. It was “THE” moment where heaven kissed earth and Jewry was gifted with six hundred and thirteen Mitzvot, opportunities to bond with G-d. Hashem didn’t just bequeath us “Commandments”, He didn’t just institute “Laws” for us, but rather, He gave us each a G-dly perspective. He was saying “Kinderlach, my dear children, life is tough enough, let me hold your hand and walk you through your earthly journey and give you the tools you need to make the very best of it”.

Every Mitzvah fuels personal betterment.

Here are two examples from the Ten Commandments: Honor thy father and thy mother. Why? Because it engrains in us the importance of gratitude. It doesn’t mean that our parents are perfect, we just need to focus on the fact that they brought us into the world, period. Subsequently, we’ll be grateful to G-d who, not only blessed our parents with life and brought them together, but created Adam, the first human. Similarly, with the commandment of “Thou shall not covet”. Why not? Because coveting leads to intimidation and possibly theft, as we try to attain the item we covet. Take a moment, savor the taste of a thought in Abarbenel or Sefer Hachinuch and you’ll see that It’s more than just the practice, it’s the inner change that occurs in the process.

The world is seeking it, we have it, let’s enjoy it!

 

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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