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Weekly Message

Weekend Gossip!

Montanans are not ones to complain about inclement weather, but the past couple of weeks has changed the rules of the game and almost everyone I’ve run into is basically saying the words I keep thinking “enough is enough”. To paraphrase from Tevya on Fiddler on the Roof “I know Montana is Your chosen State but could You choose someplace else once in a while”. Naturally, the weather brings people together. We are more understanding of canceled appointments, we are more thoughtful about a car or person at the side of the road, we are more forgiving to the post office who won't deliver to some areas and when my SUV was stuck, it didn’t take eight minutes before two friends immediately came to pull me out.

This week’s Torah portion, Vayak'hel, begins with these words “Moses called the whole community of the children of Israel to assemble, and he said to them: "These are the things that the Lord commanded to make. Six days work may be done, but on the seventh day you shall have sanctity, a day of complete rest to the Lord…You shall not kindle fire in any of your dwelling places on the Sabbath day." On the first post-Egypt Yom Kippur, Moses descends the Mountain with the Second Tables and G-d’s forgiveness, and the next morning he gathers the people, commands them to build a Tabernacle and that Shabbos ingenuity, deciphered as the 39 forms of creativity including lighting fires, is prohibited, even when used in service of G-d.

To me the verse has an additional meaning: to bring people together, to “assemble the children of Israel”, you need a Moses, an individual who is principled and firm, yet loving and devoted to the wellbeing of his people above all. Moses reminds them that each Jew needs a day of rest, a Shabbos, and on that day, we cannot ignite fire, we can’t be engulfed in divisive fiery rhetoric, gossip or screaming matches. Moses teaches us that in life, when trying to build our own internal Tabernacle, in our body, our home, our workplace, we need to introduce a peaceful experience of rest that is free of all types of “fire”. For that to happen we each need a Moses that can guide us to be disciplined, humble and focused on the task at hand without getting caught up in the “saga of the day”.

I have a Moses, do you?

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' Sinners!

We had the honor of spending this past Shabbos with the Wolf’s at Chabad of the Flathead Valley and visiting with the Vogel’s at Chabad of Missoula on Monday. I remember the time, not too long ago, when Chavie and I served as the only Chabad couple in the State and to see the growth, not only with two more couples, but with hundreds who attend our programming is heartwarming and indicative of a bright future. While in Kalispell, the Wolf’s hosted a full table of locals for Shabbos dinner and six Jews showed up the next morning for Torah study. We are not the UJA and Jews are not statistics, it’s about souls searching for Torah light and having families on site ready to offer them just that.

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tisa, we read about the infamous Golden Calf. The Jewish people sin against G-d, betraying Him and his envoy Moses, and G-d is adamant on wiping them off the face of the earth. Yet, just at that critical moment, something radical transpires. Moses tells G-d that either He forgives Jewry for their betrayal or he’s out. He doesn’t want his name mentioned in the Torah, he doesn’t want his name listed in the Book of Life; it’s me and my people or none of us, period. G-d offers Moses a grandiose opportunity for a new nation with Moses at its helm, but Moses sticks to his guns and doesn’t capitulate to G-d’s seduction.

Moses understood something that our Rebbe taught us three thousand years later: If one Jew doesn’t matter, no Jew matters. If a Jewish family in Columbia Falls isn’t important enough for a Kosher Mezuzah, if a Jew in Stevensville isn’t worthy of his own pair of Tefillin and if a Jewess in Roundup isn’t worthy of Shabbat candles, then no Jew anywhere, matters at all. The logic is simple: If the individual isn’t important, then putting a bunch of unimportant people together doesn’t make it any more important. Let’s take to heart Moses’ defense of the ultimate sinners and remember that we each have inherent value that must be recognized first and foremost by ourselves and then by our leaders, rabbis and the community at large.

Every Neshama’le Matters!

 

 

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!!!

Integrity!

Raising five children, like living life, is complex, but a vital component throughout the process, is constancy.  Children need the integrity of consistency, but it’s hard for them to integrate this invaluable attribute, if they see their parents live capriciously. We are their role model and therefore must live with the standards we wish of them. I had the opportunity of visiting with Shoshana for a few hours this week and this was the theme throughout our conversations: integrity, integrity, integrity. Living with integrity is not just a bonus attribute to support wholesome living but it’s really at the core of all of life’s experiences.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we read of the daily commandment “ The one lamb you shall offer up in the morning and the other lamb you shall offer up in the afternoon.”. The Midrashic sages debate the most important verse of the Torah. Is it the Shema Yisroel, the proclamation of, and belief in, G-d’s oneness? Is it to love your fellow as yourself? Is it the idea that G-d created every human in His image and should be treated with dignity? Yet, despite the importance of these concepts, Ben Pazi says that the verse commanding two daily offerings in the Holy Temple is most central, even more than those more popular ideas. The Midrash concludes that Ben Pazi is correct.  

What did Ben Pazi recognize that the other sages didn’t? It’s that Judaism without consistency is destined to failure.

Internalization, building a deep relationship with our Creator, is key and it’s impossible without a steady experience enabling its growth. Bringing bonus Musaf offerings, windfall spiritual highs, are awesome, but can only survive long-term, if they sit on the shoulders of a daily relationship with G-d. There’s no guarantee that holidays will be as super uplifting as we’d like or that our children will adhere to the values we impart to them, but at a minimum we should do our part of “walking the walk” with G-d and humanity, not just “talk the talk”.

In the words of a wise author “Consistency isn’t rocket science, it’s commitment”!

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!!!

State of my union!

The Constitution states that the President “shall from time to time give to Congress information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” Indeed, on Tuesday, over forty-six-million Americans, including members of both Houses of Congress, watched as President Trump spoke to the nation. This 200+ year-old custom, which started with President George Washington, gives the citizens of our precious union an opportunity to hear where things currently stand in our country; making some happy, some furious and some confused.

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, the earthly display of the human-Creator relationship. As we ponder the Holy Ark, the Menorah, the Alter, the Showbread and all the other holy furniture, we are taught life lessons. The Ark, housing the Torah, reminds us to stick to G-dly wisdom and not get seduced by other, sometimes appealing, ways of thinking. The Menorah with its seven lamps reminds us to always be a source of light in our tumultuous world. The Alter reminds us the importance of sacrifice/selflessness and the showbread teaches us that all our sustenance is a result of G-d’s kindness.

Every so often, we should pause and ask ourselves, what is the state of my union? What is the state of my relationship with G-d?. Just this morning, while bemoaning a financial challenge, Chavie said to me “Chaim Shaul, you don’t have enough trust in Hashem”. She’s 100% right, but I’m the first to admit that it’s hard. When saying the bedtime Shema, I must ask myself “Chaim, are you learning enough Torah? Are you brightening the world around you? Are you lessening your ego and living selflessly? Are you trusting in the Aibershter for real?”. My union certainly needs some real work to reach healthfulness, how about yours?

In the words of King David “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will bear you”!

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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