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Weekly Message

The cousin I wish I knew!

As I make my way back to Bozeman for Shabbos, I reflect on my week away. I was honored to represent Montana at the AIPAC policy conference in D.C. and meet with lovers of Israel of all political persuasions. I had the opportunity to pray for our community at my Rebbe’s resting place in Queens and I joyously danced at the Brooklyn wedding of my dear friend Akiva and his bride Esther. Yet, sadly I also spent a few hours at the gut-wrenching funeral of my cousin Moshe Hirsch of Woodmere. Moshe’s wife Malkie is my second cousin and, while we didn’t grow up together, our families are close at heart.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shemini, we read about Aaron, the High Priest, mourning the untimely passing of his sons Nadav and Avihu. They were holy, they were chosen for sanctification, Aaron still had two living sons Elazar and Eitamar, but the pain was raw, the hurt was unbearable and the only option that was viable for Aaron was silence. Words don’t cut it when the young are ripped from us, leaving, in Moshe’s case, his widow Malkie and five beautiful Kinderlach Dovid, Nisson, Yosef, Gavriel and Rosie shattered. As I listened to the eulogies, I realized that Moshe was incredibly kind, and I wished I had the honor of knowing him.  His family love was palpable, and he spent every free moment with his children, praying together in the Shul he helped build, attending school events and, together with Malkie, creating a home of joy and kindness.

I will land in Bozeman, G-d willing, in a few hours and I just want to hug my kiddos and never let go. Moshe went to work Wednesday morning as a healthy man and passed without any warning while at his desk. I know he’d do anything for one more kiss, one more father-child learning session, one more outing with his kiddos. With tears rolling down my cheeks, I resolved to be a father that’s more present. Community work can wait, responding to texts can wait, worrying about the finances can wait; cousin Moshe, like Aaron, taught me that moments with our children are precious and I’d rather be remembered for the extra hug than for the quickest “retweet”.

Time is a gift; don’t waste it!

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!!!

Jews with Guilt?

Despite Spring Break and half of Bozeman escaping the melting snow and falling roofs, over eighty people joined us last night for Purim Under the Sea (Photo Gallery Here). While it’s always a rockin’ party, I find that people celebrate, not just because of the food and entertainment, but because the story of Purim resonates with their soul, with their very essence. Why? Because Haman is still around, Esther and Mordechai are still fighting for Jewish survival and the world is full of “neutral people” that don’t necessarily dislike us but for few dollars or a smile from Haman would be happy to rid the world of “the Jew”. Spoiler alert: you will never defeat us.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tzav, we read about the various types of Tabernacle offerings: daily, Shabbos, holidays, Rosh Chodesh, sin, guilt, peace, thanksgiving and more. An offering is a mechanism to get closer to G-d and the way I see it is that you can choose to get closer via guilt or via thanksgiving. You can either continue the 3,300-year-old traditions of Judaism because you feel guilty ignoring them. That guilt may be self-inflicted or through the “loving” intervention of your mother or Bubby, but guilt it is. Or you can have a relationship with Hashem based on thanksgiving, recognizing that you were chosen at Sinai for the unique service of being a “light unto the nations” and you’re expressing your thanks for being part of Am Yisroel by living its traditions.

Last night, as I read the eternal words of the Megilla, It was clear to me that no one was there reluctantly, they were there because until this very day Haman is saying “There is one nation scattered and dispersed among the nations throughout the provinces of your kingdom, whose laws are unlike those of any other nation and who do not obey the laws of the King. It is not in the King's interest to tolerate them”, Esther is pleading “For my people and I have been sold to be annihilated, killed and destroyed!” and at the end of it all we know that our unity, our prayers and our repentance will result in “For the Jews there was light and happiness, joy and glory”. We celebrate Purim to give thanks to G-d  for the daily Purim’s in which G-d ensures, one way or another, that Haman will fail.

Time For A Thanksgiving Offering!

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!!!

Peace, inshallah!

Last night, just before heading to bed, my friend Yankel tweeted something about a shooting attack at a mosque in New Zealand. It was heartbreaking to learn this morning that forty-nine Muslim worshipers at two mosques were targeted for annihilation for simply choosing to pray to G-d. Does anyone really believe that terror like this, inflicted on men, women and children, is going to make the world a better place? Whether it’s in Israel against Jews, Iraq against Christians, India against Buddhists or in New Zealand against Muslims, we must never remain silent when pure evil, Amalek-style hatred, proliferates in our midst.    

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, the first in the book of Leviticus, we read about the communal sin offering. While in the literal sense it refers to a case in which the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, errs in judgment and as a result all of Jewry sins, figuratively, it’s a reminder that at times we must be collectively honest, digging deep into our souls, asking ourselves how we got here? Did we contribute in any way to this communal sin? Just last week I heard one of my kids joking about an Arab name they thought was funny and I immediately reminded them that “people think our names sound weird too, but you wouldn’t want them to make fun of us”. As a community, we must join to remove hate ideology. Before we open our mouths, we must ask ourselves whether what we are about to say will bring people together, shine a positive light on the person/community of which we speak and if not, make the righteous choice of keeping our mouths shut.

Muslims are certainly frightened today. Like Jews in Pittsburgh, Catholics in the Philippines and Sikhs in Wisconsin, Muslims are hurt and rightfully so. I am at the forefront of condemning Islamic terrorism and love Israel and its people with every fiber of my being, but that doesn’t mean we can sit back and ignore the atrocities done to innocent Muslims in Myanmar, China or New Zealand. I am raising my children to respect every human being, it’s not easy, but I give it all I’ve got, please join me in doing the same. In the words of Albert Einstein “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it”. 

May peace reign soon, inshallah!

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!!!

Blueprints!

This week, as I do each year, I had the pleasure of speaking to high school students of Bozeman’s Heritage Christian School. During my one-hour talk I asked the students a few questions: “Who was the greatest Prophet to ever live on earth?”, “What day of the week is the Sabbath?”, “Why do we celebrate Passover?” and there was one student, sitting in the second row, that knew the answers to almost all my questions. I was impressed, as being a sixteen-year-old today with the addiction to smart phones, social media and pop culture, it’s hard to keep up with Moses, the Ten Commandments and Queen Esther.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Pekudei, the last in the Book of Exodus, we read about the accounting of the Tabernacle donations and the completion of its construction. With two primary project managers, Betzalel and Oholiav, every Jew was able to join the team of artisans, building a G-d-guided architectural masterpiece. Hashem didn’t just say “it’s your intent that matters”, “You get an A for effort” or “If you run out of silver use copper instead”; He was extremely clear that in order for His presence to dwell on earth, for heaven and earth to kiss perfectly, every instruction detail must be followed to the last socket.  

Americas incredible freedom has confused people into thinking they can tell G-d how “they think” the world can be made better. In truth, there is only one way to make a more holy, more ethical, more moral and more habitable home for G-d on earth, that is by following His ingredients for a better life. It’s not magic or with overnight miracles, as with those building the Tabernacle, it takes lots of hard work and devotion. For us, there is Five Books of blue prints and thousands of pages of interior design specs available in the Talmud and Halacha that were prepared for our project, we just need to study them. Let’s raise a generation who are taught the plans, instead of us complaining when they make up their own.

It’s all in the details!

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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