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Weekly Message

Sleeping in a Yurt!

After an incredible family Shabbos with Shoshana in Hurricane, Utah, we were off on an adventurous drive home. We drove through picturesque Zion, visited sunrise point at Bryce, ran through Devil’s Garden and overnighted in a Yurt in Escalante, couldn’t get enough of breathtaking Capitol Reef, put our hands in the air like we just don’t care at Goblin State Park, ran through the Sand Dune Arch of Arches, and stood high atop Island In the Sky at Canyonlands and saw G-d's greatness. Yes, it was one week and seventeen hundred miles in a minivan with four kiddos, but the quality of the experience and a lifetime of memories was unbeatable.

In this week’s Torah portion, Toldot, we read about Rebecca instructing Jacob to siphon Isaac’s blessings from his twin brother Esau and Jacob’s subsequent escape. Jacob spent thirty six years away from his parents, away from home, and although he thrived in Torah study and built an incredible family during that time, he misses out on so many years with his beloved dad and, sadly, never sees his mother Rebecca again. Yes, Rebecca’s guidance procured Jacob and Jewry’s future, but no matter how we twist the story, it was a family ripped apart. Parents living in Israel, one local son who is a thief, idolater and murderer, a second son who is living far away without social media or email and the loneliness is palpable. 

So often, I hear of people’s regrets. Good people, holy people, friendly people, who simply keep pushing off spending quality time with their families for one reason or another. I don’t know how long I will live, it’s out of my control; what I do know is that G-d gifted me with an incredible Chavie and five Divine children and they deserve my time. I love our crazy workload for the furtherance of Jewish life in Montana, but I will not let that stop me from fulfilling my primary role as husband and father. Sleeping in a Yurt is not something I could’ve imagined doing, but it was an experience that our family will cherish forever and that is priceless.

I don’t want to Kvetch about my regrets; I want to laugh about great memories! 

May You guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May You protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Strange Kindness?

It was the usual quick trip. I flew to Boston for a night on Sunday, invited by the Boston Jewish Film Festival, to do the post film Q&A of the Rabbi Goes West at the packed Somerville Theater. Hundreds of people who knew very little about Chabad philosophy, who haven’t necessarily ever interacted personally with one of the Rebbe’s emissaries and were never directly exposed to our views on Mashiach, Israel, Halacha, lifestyles and so much more, had an opportunity to watch the film and openly ask me how we, Chassidim, view certain issues, including topics that are emotionally charged. A room filled mostly by those who self-label as “liberal”, “reform” or “non-orthodox”, were extremely hospitable, warm and friendly; I felt like I was among family, not in hostile territory.

The next morning, I caught a glimpse of the impeachment hearing at Logan Airport…

In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we read about Abraham seeking a wife for his forty-year-old son Isaac. He chooses his selfless servant and prime student Eliezer for this significant mission and when Eliezer sees a young woman who is kind to a stranger and to the stranger’s animals, he figures she’s the right one for Isaac. He didn’t look to see which Ivy League she attended, what her father’s portfolio looks like or even what type of Jewish education she received; he simply wanted to see if she’s a kind individual. It seems so basic, and perhaps it is, but Eliezer focused on this aspect of Rebecca, as he knew that for someone to live with Isaac, a son of the incredibly kind Abraham and Sarah, they need to be kind at heart as well.

Back to the hearings, I think we can all agree that our country is losing its kindness for each other. Too many of our very own citizens, sometimes our own friends, are choosing extreme judgementalism and nastiness, instead of finding commonality and decency. It’s happening across the spectrum, on both sides of the political aisle, and is, sadly, penetrating young beautiful souls, who should see the G-d spark in every human being and instead are actively focusing on that which divides us, thinking they are superior to those they disagree with. Rebecca saw a stranger at a well, she didn’t ask him who he voted for, his opinion on taxes or if his boss Abraham was a Democrat or Republican; she offered water to him and his camel; old fashioned kindness.

Kind; not just a label for a bar!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May Hashem protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Windy Inspiration!

It was another very busy week with classes, program planning, a jail visit, a talk at the Cancer Support community, time with an elderly Jew at an Alzheimer’s care facility and fun with the kiddos at the mall, but the highlight was my fifteen hour visit to Chicago, the one place on earth that felt colder than Bozeman. I was invited to address a Farbrengen of men in the local Chabad community as well as to talk with one hundred or so teenage girls at the Lubavitch Girls High School; it was one of those life moments where I came to inspire and left inspired. They came to listen to what I’d share and with their listening taught me so so much.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we read about our founding father Abraham seeking out travelers who would accept his warm and royal hospitality. It was then, outside his tent, with the desert sun sizzling, that G-d visited him and helped his healing process. You see, ninety-nine-year-old Abraham was physically uncomfortable, as he had circumcised himself just three days earlier, yet, instead of focusing on his own ailment, he sought others who were in need. He understood that the joy we experience when giving to others is so pleasurable, so emotionally rewarding, that, if but for a moment, it allows us to forget about our own “issues” and gives us genuine rejuvenation.

It wasn’t the Glenlivet L’Chaim and healthy dose of Sushi that blew me away; it was my Chabad brothers in West Rogers Park. These hardworking men, laymen and rabbis, who needed to be up for work just a few hours later, sat and listened for five hours, sang melodious tunes that penetrated our hearts and even debated me on various matters until 1:30 AM; it was real, it was deeply authentic. I spent a few solid hours engaged with some people I've never met but who wanted to know more, do more and be better; it left an impressionable mark on me.  As my flight headed back from O’Hare to Bozeman, I couldn’t stop thinking of the Talmudic Idiom “More than the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to nurse”.

Giving is getting. If you don’t believe me, just try it!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May Hashem protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Don't judge people by their lousiness!

Love is a big word and this week I fell in love. No, not a new romantic love, rather, the love that is expressed with deep adoration, in my case, it’s for Eva Schloss, stepsister of Anne Frank, who accepted our invitation and spoke for fourteen hundred people at MSU (Event Pics Here). The way I see humanity is forever changed thanks to Eva’s story, energy, humor and Mentchlichkait. In some ways she changed our beloved community for the better and I’m honored to have made her visit a reality. 

As I sat beside her during her talk, I thought not only of those who perished during the holocaust, but also of the tens of millions, perhaps hundreds of millions, of Jews that would’ve been living on earth, had their ancestors survived the death camps like Eva did.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech-Lecha, we read about Abraham’s treck north from Israel to Syria to demand, and fight for, the return of his wicked nephew Lot, who was captured in the battle of the four/five kings. One wonders: why did Abraham bother? Lot was immoral and unethical and chose to live far away, both physically and spirituality, from his uncle Abraham, so why go into full war mode just to save him? Yet, our sages teach that Abraham wasn’t only saving Lot, but he was saving Ruth, David, Mashiach and many others who descended from Lot and were great assets for Jewry and the world. We tend to look at people just for who they are, mostly, superficially. Imagine, if we were able to see not only their soul, but the souls of their future offspring.

In a world plagued by division and hatred, where riots and demonstrations now seem to be the norm, it may be a good time, not only to treat people with dignity, but to see their bigger picture, for what they could potentially bring the world and what could be gifted to the world long after they’re gone through their family. It’s not easy to treat every individual with that kind of respect and love, but imagine what the world would be like if we did.

Humans are like trees; the fruit is unpredictable! 

May You guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Moshiach speedily. May You protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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