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Weekly Message

Dear Jewish Women...

Dear Jewish women,

I trust this note finds you well, hopefully at the tail end of the labor-intense weeks of cleaning, prepping, cooking and “turning over” your kitchen for our beloved holiday of Passover. Although I share this thought quite often at Shabbat meals and Torah classes, the time has come for me to put pen to paper in expressing my gratitude to each of you for what you’ve given me, what you’ve given our people.

At the Seder, while reading the Haggadah, we relive G-d’s miracles during the Exodus and splitting of the sea, we remember the leaders and warriors who were His emissaries in the redemptive process and we even eat symbolic food connected to the stages of our journey. Yet, it’s easy to forget the “average Jew”, the Jewish “Joe the plumber”, the men and women who made us worthy of this unbelievable transition from slavery to freedom.

So, today I say thank you, thank you to the Jewish women, who are brave, courageous, tenacious, imbued with feminine perspective and who understood liberty before it was a thing.

Thank you to Yocheved and Miriam, Moses’ mother and sister, who saved his life by hiding him in a basket on the water, defying the barbaric decrees.

Thank you to princess Bityah, the Pharaohs daughter, who disobeyed the “empire” and rescued little Moses, adopting him and raising him in the palace.

Thank you to the Jewish midwives who taught the women how to give birth in silence and helped them through the postpartum process so that their children shouldn't be murdered by the Egyptians.

Thank you to the countless Jewish women who watched their children being used as caulking in the mighty walls of Ramases and continued to bring more children, more life and more brightness into the, then broken, world.

Thank you to the Jewish women who during the harsh slavery set aside hand-crafted musical instruments, because they believed, they knew, redemption was promised and wanted to be ready for the subsequent celebration.

Thank you to the Jewish women who didn't Kvetch about the men singing with Moses, but rather joined Miraim and sang together in a most beautiful female assembly.

Thank you to the Jewish women who remained devoted to Judaism while their husbands chose to create a golden calf.

Thank you to the daughters of Tzlafchad who stood up for their rights and with G-d’s full support received a portion in the land of Israel.

Thank you to Deborah the ProphetessYael the Kenite and Yehudis the Maccabee for showing us what women warriors look like.

Thank you to women like Ruth who gave up wealth, prestige and even family just so they can join our treasured nation.

Thank you to Queen Esther for expressing the beauty and dignity of the Jewish woman while interacting with an ultra-secular environment.

Thank you to Bruriah and Yalta who ferociously debated Jewish law with the Rabbis in the Talmudic study halls.

Thank you to the Jewish women during the inquisition, pogroms, holocaust and those living currently on the frontline in our homeland Israel, who have expressed such deep resolve, selflessness and perseverance.

Thank you to Sarah Schenirer for staring the first Jewish girls school in Poland which paved the way for their education till this very day.

Thank you to my mom who was my rock and whose way of thinking, speaking, writing and inspiring still guides me every day.

Thank you to my Bubbe who was a classy woman with a smile of the century, who was so proud of her Jewish heritage.

Thank you to my Israeli Savta, born and bred in Jerusalem, whose passion for Torah Judaism and her love for Israel was second to none.

Thank you to the Jewish women who race home to light their Shabbos candles before sunset and who have broken the ice of Montana's springs to immerse themselves in a Mikvah.

Thank you to the Jewish women who naturally appreciate, or have learned to appreciate, the guidelines of modesty and realize that being attractive isn’t synonymous with being provocative.

Thank you to the countless Jewish women I’ve met, who through thick and thin, through intermarriages and divorces, through urban and rural life, have remained unwavering in their union with G-d and His people.

Thank you to Chavie, who, through the ups and downs that we share, continues to be my anchor, my hope and my tower of strength.

Dear women, I write this, so that you know how appreciated you are. It’s not only about your good looks and splendid clothing, it’s not only about your mouthwatering cooking and tireless mothering, it’s not just about your infinite love and stereotype-breaking successes, it’s about you. The inner you; the you that is so unique, so dignified, so feminine, so so deserving of our respect.

May this Pesach bring you all revealed blessings that allows you to be yourselves as you teach us all how to experience freedom, something ya’ll made a reality.

With respect and admiration,

Brother Chaim

PS May G-d bless our secular society and help them understand that when a man or woman refrains from physical contact with someone from the opposite sex, it’s out of respect, not contempt.  

PPS 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!!!

An Unnatural Gift!

During a family getaway for spring break, at a cabin near the Madison, I had the opportunity to learn about the life of football player Michael Oher, who was taken in by Sean & Leigh Anne Tuohywhich changed his life forever. This incredible story of genuine kindness reminded me of a song I grew up with, by Chassidic singer Avraham Fried “There’s a small piece of heaven in everyone’s heart, a glorious gift from above, it will sparkle and shine if we each do our part, to reach out and touch it with love”. It’s important for each of us to see the diamond within each heart.

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, second in the Book of Leviticus, we read that “A continuous fire shall burn upon the altar; it shall not go out.”. The 16th century Jewish poet, Rabbi Elazar Ben Moshe Azkiri of Safed, wrote “I will build a tabernacle​​ in my heart to glorify G-d's honor. And I will place an altar in the tabernacl​​e dedicated​ to G-d's divine rays of splendor. ​ And for the eternal flame I will take upon myself the fire that fueled the Binding of Isaac. And as a sacrifice​ I will offer G-d my soul, my unique soul.” Sometimes, our view of our fellow is impaired due to the billows of smoke; what we don’t realize is that it’s the smoke of their soul on fire.

This upcoming Tuesday, I will be celebrating the birth of my beloved Rebbe. I know it’s been almost twenty-four years since his passing, yet I still celebrate, because his birthday is a day that the world was gifted, a day that I was gifted. Gifted with what? The Rebbe is the one who taught me to do the unnatural. To see the good in others without being judgmental, to give others the benefit of the doubt, even when logic says I should doubt them, to reach out to those who have resisted my outreach before, because today is not yesterday and to believe that I can change the world through my work in Montana. He ignited my inner flame and I try to kindle others with it. Education Day USA is dedicated to him, because that’s the foundation of all education: seeing your students as gems.

Happy birthday dear Rebbe; thank you for gifting me with glasses of hope!

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!!!

 

 

Healthy Fat!

Yesterday, while Menny was skiing at Bridger with his buddy Ari and Shoshana was relaxing at home with books and music, I headed to Spanish Peaks, with Chaya and Zeesy in tow, to affix Mezuzot at the home of our friends Dorita and Hal. While enjoying our conversation, I was inspired by an idea shared by Hal regarding Tzedakah, giving charity; he said, “it’s not really yours until you give it away”. I don’t know if everyone can accept that idea as fact, but the importance of giving away a percentage of our income is vital, not only to the perseverance of Jewish life and a healthy society, but to our personal sense of spiritual fulfillment and growth.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the first in the book of Leviticus, we read about the sacrificial offerings. In the midst of it all we read that “the kohen shall cause it to go up in smoke on the altar, consumed as a fire offering, with a pleasing fragrance. All sacrificial fat belongs to the Lord.” “Fat” is not only an animal part, but a figure of speech for “the very best”. As Maimonides writes “In this way, one who desires to gain merit for himself, subjugate his evil inclination, and amplify his generosity should bring his sacrifice from the most desirable and superior type of the item he is bringing. For it is written in the Torah ( Genesis 4:4)"And Abel brought from his chosen flocks and from the superior ones and God turned to Abel and his offering."

The story is told of the Holy Reb Zusha of Anipoli, who lay crying on his deathbed. His students asked him, "Rebbe, why are you so sad? After all the good you have done, you will surely get a great reward in heaven!" "I'm afraid!" said Reb Zusha. "Because when I get to heaven, I know G-d's not going to ask me 'Why weren't you more like Moses?' or 'Why weren't you more like King David?' But I'm afraid that G-d will ask 'Zusha, why weren't you more like Zusha?' And then what will I say?!". True, it’s not easy, as we like to hang on to our hard-earned cash, but that’s exactly why it’s so special, doing the best we can. Yes, I am a Rabbi/Fundraiser, but like every Jew, I tithe, and giving charity is most rewarding.  It’s not only about the quantity of our gift; it’s about sincerity and quality.

Charity, the secret to fulfillment and accessible 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!!!

 

Moses & Math!

Earlier this week, I was honored to represent Montana at the AIPAC Policy Conference in Washington, D.C. (click here for pics). In addition to engaging in important networking events, I was able to listen to diverse perspectives about Israel’s current state of affairs. From Ambassador Nikki Haley to Senator Chuck Schumer, from Vice President Mike Pence to Senator Amy Klobuchar, the speakers were all passionate about their love for the Jewish people and unwavering support of the Holy Land. It’s not often that people set aside their personal politics for the greater good, but at AIPAC I saw that it’s certainly possible.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Vayakhel – Pekudei, we read about the construction of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle. Moses descends from the mountain on Yom Kippur with G-d’s merciful gift of forgiveness and the next morning, Tishrei 11, he instructs Jewry to build a home for G-d on earth. He demands that everyone join together, each gifting their unique talents and strengths, to ensure the perfection of this holy abode. From weaving tapestries to creating beam sockets, from collecting herbs for the incense offering to donating mirrors to create a washing basin, men and women put their tribalism aside to make this a reality.

It’s high time for the Jewish people to do the same today. We MUST cut the nonsense and internal gossiping. We don’t have to all agree, we don’t have to all be in sync and we definitely don’t need to demonize those who disagree with us. Let’s focus on our relationship with G-d, His Torah and His land and put aside our differences for the greater good. Way too often, marginalization, discrimination and hatred doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside the Jewish camp and that’s just plain wrong. Moses taught us that each of us is good at something and we must utilize that uniqueness for the betterment of our people and humanity. I don’t agree with all the speakers at AIPAC (and don’t even agree with all of AIPAC’s founding philosophies) but when eighteen thousand Jews and gentiles get together for a good cause, in this case a love for Israel, it’s inspiring and a reason for hope.

Moses was good at math, but division was his least favorite subject!

 

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!!!

Batter Up!

Last night was truly incredible! A packed house of joyous souls gathered at The Baxter for a rokin Purim in Candyland (Photo Gallery) with Chavie’s mouthwatering food, a bar with L’Chaim galore, Walt’s fantastic magic show, a Megillah reading at the speed of light and an atmosphere of unadulterated joy that lifted us above and beyond, as we say in Yiddish Tefach Hecher! Young and old, native and newcomer, regulars and Holiday-Jews, all came together to celebrate the story of a woman who stepped up to the plate and saved the day.

You see, in this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tisa, we read about the sin of all time, the molding of a golden calf. The problem with that disgraceful moment, wasn’t only the actual sin, but also the multitudes of Jews who stood at the sidelines and didn’t try to stop the insane perversion. You’re standing and watching your fellow brothers creating an inanimate “leader” who they claimed took them out of Egypt, and you don’t have the decency to put your arm around their shoulder and remind them that they just received the Torah at Sinai and that this is unbecoming? You can’t invite them over for a drink and lovingly knock some sense into them? Esther had her moment too. She hesitated, but Mordechai got her going, and she then changed the trajectory of Jewish history.

We each have our Purim moment. We can either sit back and say “I’m sure someone will step up and do right by our people, but I’m too cozy watching football and I don’t want to stand out”, or we can be like Esther and say “I know my life is on the line, but if not now, when? and if not me, who? I must stand up for my people, for myself, at all costs”. Let’s internalize Purim, let’s channel the joy of Esther into the joy of doing right because it’s right. Let’s step up to the plate at our moment, even if your “so called” friends think your “addiction to Judaism” is a little overkill. Life is not a contest of getting Facebook likes, it’s an opportunity to change the world and only when we’re in Esther mode can we accomplish this.

Talk is cheap; Esther chose action!  

 

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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