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Weekly Message

I'm not a dancer!

It’s no secret that while I love music, the pen of the soul, I am not a big fan of dancing. For me to get into it, to invoke authentic joy that is expressed in physical dancing, it must be a real joyous event like the wedding of a sibling, a euphoric Purim moment or, occasionally, when it’s just me and the kids in their room, and we dance like nobody’s watching. Yet, this coming week, after wrapping up Sukkot with Sushi and Scotch in the Sukkah, we will usher in Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah, the finality of this incredible Holiday season, when we take the priceless scrolls out of the Aron HaKodesh, the Holy Ark, and dance the night away as we hold them with palpable love.

Why the love? I will tell you:

Growing up as an orthodox Jewish boy in Brooklyn gave me slight shelter from outside, un-Jewish, influences, but our family was still quite aware of, and somewhat interactive with, the realities of the world around us. We were blessed to have our own Torah-based value system that guided our every move and which we cherished deeply, but we knew that secularism or “Western Culture” had its own set of rules and way of thinking. As adults, Chavie and I are witness daily to what secularism has offered America and the tragic ramifications of its impact on our culture. Which is why when Simchat Torah arrives, we will join in Shul, conclude Deuteronomy, begin Genesis, read the Torah verses of “Ata Hareisa” emphasizing the Torah’s value and then, despite my reservations, I will lift my lazy legs off the ground and, together with our beloved community, boogie to the energizing Jewish music of our collective soul as it soars spiritually.

The Talmudic sages predicted some 1,800 years ago that in pre-messianic times society will become brazenly senseless and oh how right they were. The more divisive, unholy and corrupt humanity is, the more grateful we must be, that despite having to deal with the coarseness directly, we have a bright Torah that helps us wade through the murky waters without drowning in it. Next week, as I hold Chanchy’s Torah in my arms dancing with my younger children and amazing Shul-buddies, I will be dancing like there’s no tomorrow, thanking G-d for the amazing scroll that give us inner life, inner liberty and inner happiness, not just the “pursuit” of it.

L’Chaim! Gut Shabbos! Gut Yom Tov!  

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!!!

Keep the family close!

Having just wrapped up an incredible Montana Yom Kippur, I am convinced that we are one people with one heart. Recently, I experienced this oneness twice: last week I spent a few hours being interviewed for "The Rabbi Goes West” alongside my friend Rabbi Allen Secher. Allen is Reformed/Renewal and I’m Hassidic, but we had such a good time together, because family is family. On a more bitter note, this past Sunday I was a basket case, as I watched a live feed of Ari Fuld’s funeral in Efrat, Israel. Ari was murdered by an Arab terrorist, just for having the audacity of being Jewish and it broke my heart, deeply. I never met Ari but felt like I was mourning the loss of a dear family member.

 

This is the essence of Sukkot.

Sukkah is a unique Mitzvah that allows innumerable Jews to experience the commandment simultaneously. We are all enwrapped in the same four walls, sitting under the same Schach ceiling and that is the observance. Yes, many Jews can do individual Mitzvot while under the same roof, but they are each doing their own Mitzvah, not an equal one. Personally, Sukkot is my favorite holiday. There is something about the feeling in the Sukkah that is so crisp, so wholesome and so invigorating. Each year we host Jews of all flavors in our Sukkah and the feeling is indescribable. Despite the frosty temperatures, we are warmed as we enjoy Chavie’s mouthwatering delicacies, a bottle or two of L’Chaim and a spirited dose of Torah.

This Sukkot please take a moment to cherish your Jewish family. We’ve got our problems, all families do, but we are one. We can all commit that for the seven days of the holiday, we will put aside our politics, social status and religious background and focus on the essence, the G-dly spark embedded in our Jewish brothers and sisters. You have a Jewish neighbor who loves President Trump and you’re a hardcore fan of Senator Bernie Sanders? invite them over for a meal in the Sukkah. You have a Synagogue acquaintance who loved Bibi and you’d like to give Tel Aviv back to the British? say L’Chaim with them in the Sukkah. Remember, when all is said and done, keeping the family together is something that makes our Father in Heaven most happy!

Keep the family close!

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!!!

 

My Yizkor Letter...

My Yizkor Letter…

Dear Friends,

In honor of Yom Kippur, a day of introspection and Yizkor, I’ve chosen to write a heartfelt letter to my maternal great-grandparents, Shmuel Zanvil and Menucha Kraindel Goldman, who together with six of their children were murdered by the Nazis Yemach Shemom, leaving my Zayde, Reb Shimon, as a sole survivor, the only remaining branch on what was a beautiful family tree. I hope this helps you in your Yom Kippur experience.

Remember.

Rabbi Chaim Bruk

Dear Elter Zayde & Elter Bubbe,

I am writing to you almost eighty years after your lives were snuffed out by the Nazis Yemach Shemom. You, along with six of your beautiful children, Chana, Leah, Tzvi Hirsh, Chaim, Yakov and Yosef, were murdered in cold blood, because fellow human beings believed that you were inferior and not worthy of the oxygen you breathed. You never merited meeting any of your grandchildren, you never had the opportunity to see the amazing family your one surviving son Shimon created together with his beloved Esther, and you wouldn’t believe how the Gur Chassidic dynasty, whose founder was your family patriarch, is a prospering community that numbers hundreds of thousands in Jerusalem, Brooklyn and the world over.

Every Shabbat morning, as I studied and chatted with my Zayde, your beloved Shimon, somehow, he’d ensure that the conversation made it back to Shedlitz (Siedlce) and you guys. With a twinkle in his eye, and an occasional tear rolling down his cheek, he’d share as much as he could remember of his beloved family. He would talk about how you’d admonish him for playing soccer during services, how kind you were to visiting Jews who needed a place to eat while in town and how, despite your unhappiness about the spiritual direction some of your children chose, you never ceased loving them with all your heart and soul. Shedlitz, his cherished hometown, was always on the tip of his tongue and the one picture he carried with him, physically and internally, was that of your daughter, his beloved sister Chana and her fiancé, who were both murdered before their wedding day.

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about you. I live in a world that doesn’t necessarily think of the Holocaust as it used to. In Europe, the Middle-East and even here in the United States, there are those that would like to trivialize the incalculability of the Holocaust, and I assure you that your grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including Chavie and I, will never forget and will keep reminding whoever will listen. We won’t remember in sadness, we won’t carry bitterness in our heart; we will reminiscent with conviction, ensuring that our children and the communities we live in, from Johannesburg to Paramus, Waterloo to Kuai, Toulouse to Monsey, will never forget that for every survivor there was an incredible family and heritage left behind in the ash heaps of Central Europe.

In our prayers, every Monday and Thursday, we turn to G-d and we tell Him “Gaze down from heaven and see that we’ve become an object of scorn and derision among the nations. We have become considered like sheep led to the slaughter, to be slain, to be obliterated, to be stricken and to be disgraced. Nevertheless, we have not forgotten Your name. Please don’t forget us.”. I meditate on this prayer twice weekly and think of you. How proud you’d be of your family today and how we will never let your Kiddush Hashem, your G-dly sanctification, which you experienced in death, be wasted.

As I stand in Shul at Yizkor on Yom Kippur, I will think of all of those I adore and love. my mother Chanchy, my grandparents Reb Shimon and Esther Goldman, my Saba and Savta Mendel and Chana Brook, my Rebbe of righteous memory, and a few others, but this year I will think of you. I will think about how, despite all odds, we haven’t forgotten G-d’s name and that we haven’t forgotten yours either.

We have not forgotten your name: For close to seventy years, every year, on the 12th of Elul, the day he was told that Shedlitz was lit aflame and his family slayed, your son Shimon would stand in Shul and say Kaddish for his entire family. In a voice of yearning, sadness and honor he’d cry bitterly and memorialize his treasured Mishpocho.

We have not forgotten your name: After naming his first child for his beloved Rebbe Yosef Yitzchak, he named his three other children, Menucha Kraindel (AKA Kraindy) for his mom, Chana Leah (AKA Chanchy) for his two sisters and Shmuel Zanvil (AKA Shmuly) for his father. His love for ya’ll was real and boundless.

We have not forgotten your name: my brother Yanky is Yakov Yosef for two of your sons and so many of your great grandchildren are named for you: Shmuly, Chaim, Tzvi, Chani; you are part and parcel of our family story and we ponder often on how lucky we are to be the bearers of your torch.

We have not forgotten your name: You were devoted to Torah-Judaism and to a Chassidic lifestyle and, while we shifted from Gur to Chabad-Lubavitch, you’d enjoy so much Nachas to know that we continue that sacred lifestyle promulgated by the holy Baal Shem Tov with beards, modest dress, joyous lives and the study of Jewish mysticism.

We have not forgotten your name: My youngest daughter Chana Laya is named for her Bubby, my beloved mom, but she’s our family’s living embodiment of the Chana Laya her Bubby was named for. So, it lives on in Bozeman, Montana.

I often wonder what you were like and I would’ve loved to meet the people who shaped the life of my beloved Zayde. From what he told me, you guys were awesome and, while you didn’t have much, you were always grateful for that which G-d bestowed upon you. It wasn’t easy for Zayde to let go of you and run that day in the market place, but he knew in his gut that it was his only chance to survive, and he was right. Since Zayde Shimon passed I light a candle on the 12th of Elul in his stead, as your flame will remain lit forever. As I stand at Yizkor, I will remember those who came before me, who shaped those who guided me and who, despite being gone for over seventy years, still are a living inspiration to their hundreds of descendants.

This Yom Kippur, as you sit around in heaven with all your seven children, with your daughter-in-law my Bubbe Esther, with your granddaughter my mom Chanchy, please remember us, think about us, seek out your great-grand-children and their children and intercede on our behalf. Tell G-d that you’ve given enough for the Jewish people, it’s time for Him to give back to your family with blessings of health, financial stability and Nachas from our children.

While you’re at it: Tell Him we’ve suffered enough and we need Mashiach already, enough is enough.

Have an Easy Fast!

A proud heir,

Chaim

PS Please give my mom a hug for me. I miss her dearly.

 

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!!!

Dearest Shoshana...

Dearest Shoshana, Chaya, Zeesy, Menny & Chana Laya,

 

 

 

 

 

Rosh Hashana is upon us. Although I know that only two of you can read this today, it is my hope that you’ll share its message with your siblings, until they are old enough to read it for themselves. I’ve taken the liberty to share it with a “few” of my closest friends via email and social media, only because I believe its content is universal and can inspire others.

In just a few short days we will be standing in Shul, hearing the Shofar blow, as we repent for our past behavior, crown G-d as our king for another year and most importantly, ask Him in deep prayer to solidify our upcoming year to be one of sweetness and joy. Yet, I am sure you wonder on occasion: why do we need two special days for that? Why the countless hours of prayer? Can’t I just think it in my mind, feel it in my heart for a few minutes, and move on to politics/sports/pop culture?

It’s 2018 and I will speak to you in relatable terms: Smart phones. We enjoy them all the time, it allows us to connect with our friends and family, at times it’s a love/hate relationship and every so often we are told that we need a “software update”. If we’re good at taking care of our stuff, the hardware could last a very long time, but the software is constantly needing upgrades and if we want the phone to function properly and give us the most benefit, we’d be smart to follow the upgrade instructions.

Rosh Hashana is the day we were given by G-d for our annual software update, system reboot and overall upgrade. We don’t need to understand Java or HTML, we don’t need to be a computer geek or hacker, we must simply take the time, to plug in our phone, look in our settings icon and allow the updates to do their thing. G-d doesn’t expect us to understand everything about His infinite operating system, to figure out the exact cause for this year’s malfunction that needed fixing, but He does need us to allow the update to occur and we can only do that if we follow the Rosh Hashana steps.

We can certainly choose to ignore Rosh Hashana, ignore the system update, but then we’re stuck in the past where it’s not easy to communicate with Him anymore, we’re vulnerable to malware attacks, system crashes and viruses of all kinds, and we just get left behind. Its not because we did something wrong, it’s because we didn’t make the effort to do something right. Remember: Nobody, not our “friends”, neighbors or cousins, gets hurt by our refusal to update/upgrade, the only one that really gets stuck is us, all by ourselves.

So dear Kinderlach, here’s my New Year recommendation and you’d be wise to heed my advice: update your system. Don’t fall for the myth that Shul is boring. Some Shul’s may be out of touch, but ours is not and the sacred time of prayer should be utilized by all of us to reboot our relationship with Hashem. If there’s anything phones teach us, it’s that not upgrading is basically downgrading. Last year is not good enough for this year and if you don’t believe me call Apple or Verizon and see what they say.

In summation: I really don’t like Smart Phones, but it’s a reality. You may not like all the rules of Judaism every minute of every day, but it’s a reality that your soul was chosen by G-d to be part of “A kingdom of priests and a holy nation”. G-d, along with Mom and I, are pleading with you to cherish that chosenness, treasure that uniqueness and do your part to stay up-to-date.

May Hashem bless you in ways that only He can, with balance, both emotional and mental, with rich health, with success in your studies, with the courage to make the right/good choices, the strength to resist the temptations of secularism and the opportunity to be ranking soldiers in G-d’s army of light to brighten the world around us, and together with Klal Yisroel and all of humanity reunite with the third Holy Temple in our Hometown of Jersusalm, now!

A Gut Gebenched Yur!

Love,

Aba

 

 

 

 

 

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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