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Weekly Message

Don't Choose Insanity!


It was certainly no coincidence that during the week in which we launched the Montana Academy for Judaic Studies, with our first class focusing on the life of Joshua and the virtues of leadership (Watch class), a local friend offered me a healthy dose of rebuke.  It’s never fun to be the recipient of genuine critique, but as I heard my friend share where they thought I had failed, I had a choice to make: do I choose stubbornness and refuse to ever change or do I choose to recognize that I act poorly sometimes, and must own up to it and make the necessary changes.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the miracle of miracles, the splitting of the Red Sea. Seven days earlier the Jews departed Egypt, they reached a milestone at Pi HaChiros, a place that signified freedom, as no other slave had ever passed that locale en-route to independence, and then, despite being trapped between the sea and the Egyptian army, G-d gave them miraculous passage and changed the course of history. Pharaoh should’ve known better: He experienced the ten plagues, his country was in turmoil and in a chaotic state, his own people begged him to let the Jews go, but when a person is egocentrically stubborn, logic is ignored, and they make insane choices.

We each have moments where pride blurs our logic and sends us astray. We don’t want to be arrogant, we don’t want to get a bad rap for our behavior, but we simply don’t think we have what it takes to change, especially when we’ve been doing something for a long time. I’d like to believe that at 37, I can still change, I can listen to critique coming from a place of care and make better choices. Will I succeed immediately? I doubt it, but unlike Pharaoh, I will certainly try. Today I am grateful that I have a support base who will set me straight when needed so that I can be a better husband, father, son, friend and rabbi. It’s easy to see Pharaoh as stubborn, but much harder to see that same attribute within ourselves.

In the words of Rumi “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” 

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!!!

I can't wait for the weekend!

He was talking about it for weeks, and finally on Sunday, Menny hit the slopes, as he enjoyed his first ski lesson of the winter season. While Chavie and the kids love Bridger Bowl and the thrill of the sport, I enjoy sitting in the coffee shop, gazing at the incredible mountains, chatting with the many friends I run into and even getting some work done in my makeshift office. Skiing entails a lot of Shlepping, but for real Montanans it's worth the time and effort. I’m happy to live in a place where we choose hiking over video games and skiing over T.V. addiction.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read about the first Mitzvah commanded to the Jewish nation: Sanctification of the moon. At the onset of each month, we take a moment to celebrate the renewal of the moon and the cycle of time it represents. G-d, as He commenced the exodus of His people from Egyptian bondage, teaches them an eternal lesson: slaves don’t care about time as they can’t control its usage; free people control their time and must cherish it, utilizing it for good and productive endeavors. Jewry follows a lunar calendar, not only to remind us that even when things seem dark, the light will be coming soon enough, but that time itself is precious and mustn’t be squandered.

My friend Quincy has been drilling me for fifteen years about the importance of being present and living in the moment; he’s right. Too often I’m told on a Monday “Rabbi, I can’t wait for the weekend” or on a Wednesday “the weekend can’t come soon enough”; that’s not a healthy or G-dly way to live. Time is limited, a commodity whose quantity is decided by G-d but we get to choose its quality. There’s no better gift for ourselves, our children and our sanity than living in the moment and not wasting life away waiting for what’s up next.

In the words of William Penn “Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst.”

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!!!

I'm a Zionist through Fire & Water!

Yes, I’ve always loved our homeland Israel, but this week, Chavie and I, along with our four younger children, made our inaugural visit to Utah’s Zion National Park. As we gazed at the rock formations and colors, I kept humming the words to a Yiddish song I cherish “Don’t tell G-d how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your G-d is”.  Breathtaking, awe-inspiring and spectacular are just words and don’t truly do justice to what one experiences in Zion. It’s a place that turns agnostics into believers and the “I’m not a nature person” people, into folks screaming “I love nature”.

It touches the essence of our being.

Interestingly, just hours before entering the park, I started my day, as I try to everyday, studying Chassidic philosophy and this discourse, by Divine Providence, began with Isiah’s words “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her captives through tzedakah”. In it, our Rebbe of blessed memory, teaches that Zion in Hebrew means a Siman, a sign, referring to essence of the soul, which is indescribable and incomprehensible and can only be referenced through intimation. How can one redeem his/her Zion? How can one reveal their essence so that it brightens their expressive self? For that there is Justice, which is the study of Jewish law which is justice epitomized and acts of Tzedakah to those who need it most. Our personal Zion wants to impact us, practically, in the day to day, but for that to happen it needs nourishment, which is provided through intense study and selfless acts of service of others.

In this week’s Torah portion, Va’eria, we read how G-d administered the first seven, of the ten, plagues. We can choose to see the plagues as angry punishments or as wake up calls to change. G-d isn’t into punitive sentencing; He is into helping us fix our ways and sometimes that beckons tough love. Chavie and I got a call while leaving Zion that due to the frigid temperatures in Bozeman and actions unrelated to us, a few pipes burst in our home and caused some heavy damage. We could’ve blown up and blamed the whole world and G-d for this ordeal, but we chose, through meditation and working it through, to recognize that Hashem has a plan and if this is the only way to get two bedrooms remodeled courtesy of the insurance company, then we need to be grateful for the flooding.

Liberate Zion; one meditation at a time!

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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