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Weekly Message

Raise a Glass!

Tonight, Jewry will gather at Seder tables across the globe to usher in an eight-day Passover journey to collective, and personal, freedom. Yes, the most important Mitzvot on Passover are to remove leavened items from our property and to eat Matzah, yet I’d like to ask you to focus on a different aspect of the Seder this year. As the Seder begins with everyone lifting their first cup of wine/grape juice and sanctifying the holiday with Kiddush, I’d like you to take a deep breath, pull yourself together and think about the words being recited and allow it to uplift you to a place of higher consciousness:

Blessed are You, G-d, our G-d, King of the universe, who has chosen us from among all people, and raised us above all tongues, and made us holy through His commandments. And You, G-d, our G-d, have given us in Shabbaths for rest and festivals for happiness, feasts and festive seasons for rejoicing this Shabbat-day and the day of this Feast of Matzot and this Festival of holy convocation, the Season of our Freedom in love, a holy convocation, commemorating the departure from Egypt. For You have chosen us and sanctified us from all the nations, and You have given us as a heritage Your holy Shabbat and Festivals in love and favor, in happiness and joy. Blessed are You, G-d, who sanctifies the Shabbat and Israel and the festive seasons.

Let these words of Kiddush carry you through the Seder and beyond. It’s ok to take a moment and relish in the fact that we are Jewish, and that G-d gave us an opportunity for holiness through Mitzvot. It’s not an unhealthy arrogance, it’s not boasting for the sake of showing off, it’s simply stating the fact that we are different, we were chosen from on high to be different and instead of escaping from that chosenness, we embrace it and allow it to brighten ourselves, and illuminate our families, our communities and the entire world.

Internalize Kiddush, the rest will fall into place!

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!!!

Joy Baby, Joy!

While Chavie was away enjoying Mexico, our friend Linda, took the kids and I, on Sunday, to a goat farm in Manhattan (Manhattan, Montana that is). It was extremely windy, but the kids, unlike their father, were unfazed. For them, holding goats/chickens, brushing the horse’s mane, learning about the newborn triplet lambs and bringing home 6 dozen fresh eggs, was so joyous, so special, that the forty mile an hour winds didn’t get in the way of their happiness. Me on the other hand…

In this week’s Torah portion, Metzora, we continue learning the details of the spiritual-leprosy that plagued the home/clothing/skin of a gossiper. The Holy Rav Moshe Alschich, a 16th century Torah commentator, writes that when the Torah uses the word “Vehaya”, which it uses with a Metzora, it always means “Simcha” which is joy. A joyous plague? Indeed! When a Jew is beleaguered, conventional wisdom says to whine or Kvetch, but the Jew shouldn’t, rather he/she should be joyous that their Father in Heaven cares so much about them that He personally sets them straight with a touch of challenge. It's not fun or exciting, but either is a colonoscopy; it’s Hashem’s way of helping our tomorrow be healthier than today and for that joy is in order.

In a 1955 Farbrengen, the Rebbe of blessed memory shared a thought taught by a student of the great Lubliner: King David says in Psalms “then they will say among the nations, The Lord has done great things with these. The Lord has done great things with us; we were happy”. Normally, this verse is translated to mean that “because G-d has redeemed us, we are happy”. Yet, it can be understood differently, teaching us that “when the world will be trying to figure out how the Jews survived and reached redemption? How did they earn a Messianic moment? the will discover that it was because they were always joyous, no matter the harsh reality they experienced”. Our kids bike in the snow, love turbulence on planes and hang with goats when it’s tornado-ing outside, they find joy in everything; let's try to do the same. 


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!!!

A confession during the confessions!

WhatsApp is a popular app these days, especially among the Jewish community. I am grilled often as to why I don’t have the app on my phone, and my answer is always the same, telling the questioner that “Two Yom Kippur’s ago, I realized that for me, most of the sins I atone for in the Al Chet confession prayer, I transgress on WhatsApp. Gossip, evil talk, jealousy, contempt, desecrating the Divine name, foolish talk, disrespect; it’s my one stop shop for depravity.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tazria, G-d addresses the Metzora, an individual plagued with peculiar skin/home/clothing blotches that resemble, but aren’t, the medical ailment of leprosy. One of the signs of this plague is the discovery of an “Intensely white spot on the skin, and it has turned the hair white”. It seems odd that the color white, which is normally associated with cleanliness and purity, would suddenly be the biblical sign for impurity? Why the sudden change? Yet, I’ve come to realize that when it comes to interhuman quarrelling, when dealing with human addiction to slander, gossip and instigation, even pure ideas become impure. When pristine holiness is used as a cover for backstabbing or self-righteousness, it’s a wolf in sheep's skin.  

For myself, I’m aware that gossip is always a temptation. It’s easier for me to hear negativity or “juice” about others, than to deal with the reality of my internal struggles, but it’s wrong and never justified. The Talmud (Erchin 15b) teaches that slander kills three people, the inventor of the slander, the one who relates it and the listener. If we’d pause for just a moment before being any part of the gossip, we’d be saving ourselves from spiritual malpractice and ensuring we aren’t spilling someone else’s emotional blood, their self-worth and public image, which is worse than actual murder.

In the words of the Spanish proverb “whoever gossips to you, will gossip about 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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