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Weekly Message

Role Playing!

The Sushi, Blintzes and Cheesecake were thoroughly enjoyed by the seventy-five souls who attended the Shavuot celebration. Our hearts were warmed by the morning Minyan’s all three days. Heaven was smiling when on Shabbos morning our quorum included a 14-year-old teenager from Sacajawea and a 92-year-old WW2 vet Davening together. Yet, the most memorable part of the holiday for me, was spending time with my Aba, as the kids call him “Zayde”, and his wife Leah. They are so much fun, so thoughtful and so energetic. We had many great conversations, including one about child rearing and things we could’ve both done/do better.

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we continue the conversation about the role each Levite family played in the Tabernacle. Levi had three sons, and each had a form of service:  The clan of Gershon was charged with the curtains of the Tabernacle and the veils of the enclosure; the clan of Merari was charged with the walls of the Tabernacle and the pillars of the enclosure; and the clan of Kehot carried the vessels used in the Tabernacle and the screen. Kehot, who was the middle brother, was given the most prestigious responsibility, yet, they all accepted G-d’s vision regarding service, encampment and prestige. We do ourselves a disservice when taking down the G-d given roles. Later, Korach tries just that and it fails miserably.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”. He was right. Every morning a new movement is invented to tell the Jew (and every other group on earth) what is in fashion, what is outdated, what parts of Judaism are still ok and what can be uttered and what can’t. I know people who are even scared to share Torah ideas for fear of how “open minded” people will respond. We need to get over it and remember that G-d gave each individual, each tribe, each nation their unique role and it should be celebrated. Some days, I’d love to be a Kohen, but I am not. Some days I am sure Merari wanted to be Gershon or Kehot, too bad, he wasn’t. We don’t always get to choose; some things G-d chooses for us. 

I can sing “If I were a rich man”, but I can’t lose sleep over it if I’m not!

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!!!


Sinai was Romantic!

On Tuesday, Chavie hosted a wonderful pre-Shavuot women’s event at Labellum Flower Boutique, where they learned how to make their very own flower arrangements. It’s important: 3,330 years ago at the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, G-d beautified the mountain with a wide array of flowers. To commemorate that special moment, we beautify our homes and Synagogues with flowers of all sorts during the two-day Festival of Weeks, Shavuot.

Why flowers? Does G-d need flowers to make Him happy?

I believe He was sending us a subtle message about how He views our relationship with Him.

Too often I chat with fellow Jews who are, genuinely, trying to understand Torah based on the premise that secular thought is absolute truth. We need to switch that around: Torah is not an archaic set of rules, but rather a flowery wisdom that is fragrant, deep, beautiful, appealing and even romantic. It’s this special document that has been kept in the family for millennia, and we, the Jewish people of the 21stcentury, have the opportunity to keep its authentic observance alive for ourselves and the future of Jewry. Let  our premise of truth be the Torah, the Sinai guidelines, and then we can utilize our intellect to match the infinite wisdom with secularism. Ask yourself "Is my kid an expert in Shakespeare?" Maybe not, but I hope that he/she is well versed in Genesis. "What do I know about Hinduism?" Not much, but I’ve got the Mishna on the laws of real estate memorized. "Did my Shtetel parents teach me Darwinism?" Not a chance, but they sure did teach me to appreciate the significance of Eretz Yisroel in Jewish observance.

Secular studies aren’t bad, but life’s foundation comes from a much higher place.

This Sunday, as you stand in Shul listening to the Big Ten, the Ten Declarations uttered by G-d (not Charlton Heston), think about what actually matters in your life. Does Hollywood gossip, D.C. politics or the Korean Peninsula matter as much as Rav Yosef’s 2nd century feelings about the novelty of Shavuot "If not for this day that allowed me to learn Torah and become spiritually exalted, how many Yosefs are there in the market", 12th century Maimonides' writing about holidays “When a person eats and drinks as part of celebrating a holiday, they are obligated to feed "the stranger, the orphan, and the widow” and the 20th century words of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe who wrote that a “ single act is better than a thousand groans. Our G d lives, and Torah and Mitzvot are eternal; quit the groaning and work hard in actual service, and G d will be gracious to you.”.

Sinai is an invaluable currency; not susceptible to market fluctuation!

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!!!

Understanding Freedom

On Tuesday, I had the honor of attending Montana’s Law Enforcement Memorial with Attorney General Tim Fox, Gallatin County Sherriff Brian Gootkin, Bozeman Police Chief Steve Crawford and so many others from around the State and Canada. It was awe-inspiring to sit in a room with hundreds of men and women who wake up every morning with one thing in mind: serve and protect. Observing their sincerity and selflessness, contemplating the sacrifice of their family members, who don’t know whether they’ll come home at night (in the presence of Deputy Mason Moore’s family), and the sacred honor which they naturally exude, gave me an opportunity to be grateful for their service.

We are all meant to serve.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, we read G-d’s famous post Sinai words to the Jewish people: “For the children of Israel are servants to Me; they are My servants, whom I took out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God”. America was founded on the principals of liberty. Patrick Henry, one of our founders, wrote “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” Yet, in Judaism the ultimate is not whether you’re free or not, it’s what you do with that freedom and who you consider yourself free from? Free from tyranny or free from G-d?

During the Exodus from Egypt, G-d emblazoned freedom, redemption, in our hearts. He didn’t do it so that we’re free to live meaningless lives, seeking to make a few dollars, watch some Netflix and plan our next vacation; he gifted us with liberty so that we are free to be in service of Him, by following His instructions that provide us with a meaningful life. There is nothing wrong with occasional r&r, but for heaven sake, let’s not forget why freedom is important and it’s not just for capitalism and July 4th BBQ’s. This Shabbat, as we conclude the book of Leviticus, let’s ponder the meaning of freedom and servitude, and while Judaism abhors forced enslavement of another human, it cherishes our selfless service to the Creator.

Free from shackles; Free to serve!

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!!! 

Don't Make Him Blush!

Hineh Mah Tov Umah Na'im Shevet Achim Gam Yachad – How pleasant it is indeed when our Jewish family celebrates together. Last night over fifty joined together at The Shul for our 12th annual Lag B’Omer BBQ and Fun Fair. It was incredible to see brothers and sisters of all flavors gathered to celebrate the teachings of love and respect imbued in our Jewish psyche by the great Rabbi Akivah and Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. Loving G-d, His Torah and His people are the trio of Jewish interconnectedness.  If the love is genuine then we naturally love that which our beloved loves. If the love is legit, it will permeate all three.

In this week’s Torah portion, Emor, we read “You shall not desecrate My Holy Name. I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am the Lord Who sanctifies you”. It’s a Mitzvah that expresses itself both in the positive and negative. We are prohibited from doing something that will desecrate G-d’s reputation amongst humanity and we are obligated to do everything in our power to bring honor to His Holy Name. it’s not enough to teach our children the laws of the land, interhuman etiquette and proper manners, we must also teach them that, as Jews, we have the responsibility to make G-d look good. You may not be happy about the accountability, but it was gifted to us at Sinai and is not negotiable.

As I watched the young Kinderlach jumping on the moon bounce, petting the animals and riding the pony, what I saw was a group of young souls whose parents realized that when a child learns about the great sages of the Talmudic era, it will inevitably help guide them to live a more G-d oriented life. No, I’m not delusional, I don’t think one Lag B’Omer celebration is going to make it or break it, but I do know that the more we teach our children the Torah’s eternal values, the more they will bring honor to G-d, to our people Israel and to all of humanity. It’s ok to tell ourselves and our kids “I can’t do this because it will make our people look bad” or even better “I want to take the high road, the higher standard, because I’m Jewish and more is expected of me”.

Don’t make G-d blush!

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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