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Weekly Message

Pessimism is easy!

While driving home from a Kosher supervision visit to Simply 406 in Polson, I received a phone call from an old friend in Lakewood, New Jersey. In our conversation, he was bemoaning the future of Judaism and how we are losing too many souls to secularization. I listened, I agreed with him that Jewry surely has its challenges, but I also explained to him why I totally disagree with him about his prognosis: every day I get to see the sacrifice that Jews, young and old, are ready to endure in order to get a Kosher chicken, in order to observe Shabbos, in order to use a Mikvah. Heck, just this past Saturday night, a woman who was on vacation with her husband in Big Sky, drove up after Shabbos, to fulfill the Mitzvah of immersing herself in the Mikvah at 12:20 AM!!

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, we read about the twelve scouts Moses sent on a reconnaissance mission to Israel. When they returned, ten of them reported that Israel was unconquerable, and while Caleb and Joshua disagreed, their voices were drowned out by the hysteria of the masses who refused to travel to the “terrifying land”. As they bewailed what awaited them in Israel, they said “why does the Lord bring us to this land to fall by the sword; our wives and children will be as spoils. Is it not better for us to return to Egypt?". They didn’t say “we lack trust in G-d”, “we don’t think we have what it takes” or “are we sure the spies are being objective?”; instead, they chose the “it’s all about the kids” excuse, while essentially professing their own pessimism.

In G-d’s response, He says “As for your infants, of whom you said that they will be as spoils, I will bring them there, and they will come to know the Land which You despised.” Sure, the internet is exposing innocent children, teenagers and even adults to a world of folly and coarseness, but that will not define our future. The elementary students who are explaining Mezuzah to their classmates, the middle schoolers who are teaching the story of Purim to their principal, the high schoolers who are defending Israel in hostile environments, the college students who are choosing Shabbos dinner over club hopping and the adults who each day choose charity, Torah, Tefillin, Shabbos candles and Kosher, they are the future. As Corrie Ten Boom wrote “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” 

I believe in a bright future, do you?

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!!!

Is it worth it?

I was elated. My heart felt warm and fuzzy. Every time I popped into The Emerson this week and saw Camp Gan Israel of Bozeman rocking and rolling, it made me happy, literally.  Throughout the Spring, leading up to camp, I often wondered "Is it worth it”; it involves a lot of preparation by Chavie, a good amount of money and incredible devotion of the camp counselors Devorah, Gitty and Pessel. Yet, on Monday morning the first moment I saw the campers, I knew that it was indeed “worth it”, as no one could ever put a price on the education of a Jewish child.

This week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha, proves it.

In it, we read about a group of Jews who were impure during the first Passover experience in the Sinai desert. Instead of conceding to their reality and accepting their exclusion from the Pascal Lamb offering, they turned to Moses and demanded a second chance. In those unforgettable words they said “Lama Nigara”, why should we be left out? Moses is unsure how proceed, so he asks G-d for a remedy to this spiritual malady and G-d gives them “The Second Passover”. G-d didn’t say “too  late”, “you missed the boat” or “make better choices”, instead he instructed Moses that one month later, the 14th of Iyar, all those who were “out to lunch” on round one of Passover, are gifted a second chance.  

It was Divine Providence that we read this during the first week of camp. You see, the souls of Bozeman Jewry demands of G-d “Lama Nigara”, why shouldn’t our children be taught about the beauty of Shabbos candles and Mezuzos? why can’t our kids learn about their birthday on the Jewish calendar? Dosen't the next generation of Jews deserve a two-week environment of Jewish pride and Kosher lunches? I’m sure, some consultant or outreach professional would recommend that Jews move to cities with stronger Jewish infrastructure, but that’s not a practical solution, as home is home, Montana is breathtaking, and Moses’ solution would’ve been: Give them a camp experience in their own backyard. When Menny wants to say something was awesome, he says “one hundred and infinity”.

The value of a Jewish kid singing “Am Yisroel Chai” is "one hundred and infinity".

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!!!

Reality Check!

Shavuos rocked! We hosted six Minyans, ninety souls attended our various holiday meals and services, and, with my dad and his wife Leah visiting, it was a truly remarkable Yom Tov. Among our guests were three Israeli soldiers Ariel, Yakir and Asaf, who were motorcycling across America and were a pleasant addition to the community.  I had the opportunity to study with them late into Saturday night and Farbreng with them quite a bit throughout the holiday. One of the subjects we discussed was “realism” and how tough it is in our world to remain real and even optimistic during the turbulence of life’s journey.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, the longest in Moses’ Five Books, we read about the Nazirite. Rashi explains that when a person witnesses the downfall of those accused of adultery which is discussed earlier in the Torah portion, he/she may decide to withdraw from the “crazy” world and seek asceticism, leading them to Nazirism.  Yet, being a Nazir does include positivity: the Nazir doesn’t drink alcohol, which is important when seeking realness, as drinking creates numbness which separates us from reality. The Nazir doesn’t cut their hair, leaving It kinda wild, as being real and true to ourselves means living for ourselves and refraining from impressing others with our good looks and well-kept appearance.  The Nazir doesn’t even become impure by contacting a deceased body, as that is an impurity that comes from something outside of ourselves and to be real we need the ability to see ourselves for who we are, without being corrupted by the outside world, or perhaps worse, using the outside world as an excuse for our personal defilement.

Being real may seem unreal.

We often use terms like “let’s be real”, “let’s get back to reality” or “in the real world”, but are those statements true? Is the “real world” indeed that superficial experience that so often disturbs our soul and challenges our wellbeing? Do we prefer that “reality” because it numbs our truth for a little bit longer? Yes, grabbing a beer after work, watching some T.V. and catching up on politics may be easier than dealing with raw emotions, sharing our deep feelings or tapping into our souls yearning for meaning, but is it just a cover up?. The Nazir reminds us to take the occasional break from the “real world” and visit with our personal realness and enjoy the peace that comes with comforting and perfecting ourselves.

In the words of Albert Einstein “Reality is merely an illusion; albeit a very persistent one”!

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!!!

Dear G-d...

Dear G-d,

I’m writing to You just hours before we commence the three days of holiness, starting with Shabbat and continuing with Shavuot. I want to take a moment to thank You for Your Torah. In a world plagued by superficiality and coarseness, the Torah is my anchor of light, my walking stick when I feel spirituality blind and a source of deep comfort to me in those most challenging moments, that You’ve gifted to me, for reasons only known to You.

Yet, today I write to ask for a favor. I need Your help with a matter close to my heart related to those dearest to me, my beloved children, Shoshana, Chaya, Zeesy, Menny and Chana Laya.

Every morning when I awake, I say a prayer called “Vehaarev Na”. In it, I ask of You “Please G-d, our Lord, make the words of the Torah sweet in our mouths, and in the mouths of all Your people, the House of Israel”. This part of the prayer speaks to me and I often see results. There are days that, with Your help, I merit to have great joy in the study of Torah, mystical and historical, biblical and homiletical, rabbinic and Jewish customs. I sit in my library and bask in the sweetness that is imbedded in every facet of this incredible system of life called Torah. With visitors to Yellowstone and locals, I have the great privilege of discussing Jewish thought and enjoy it immensely, as we debate heatedly the meaning of Your Holy words.  

I was blessed to grow up with teachers who role modeled for me a love for Torah. Rabbis Burston, Zeiler, Zalmanov & Twersky showed me, each in their own unique way, that Torah is truly the best product known to man. In addition, studying with my Zayde Shimon every Shabbos, as we enjoyed a French Toseftist commentary on Talmud or a Kotzker thought on the Parsha lifted my spirit. My dad, after a long day of work in the city, coming home to test me on how many Mishnas I memorized by heart, are the childhood moments that remain etched in my mind and heart.

It’s the second half of that morning prayer with which I need more of Your help, dear G-d.

We say “May we and our offspring, and the offspring of Your entire people, the House of Israel, all know Your name, and study Your Torah for its own sake”. I truly Daven, G-d, that my children not only study Torah “because that’s what we Jews do”, that they not only appreciate the depth that is at the core of each verse of Moses’ Five Books, but that they experience “Vehaarev Na”; they see Torah as attractive and soothing, stimulating and heartwarming, gut-wrenching and soul calming, seeing it as sweet as sugar.

It’s not easy, as the competition to Torah is loud and seductive. Secularism works overtime to make our children think that promiscuity is better than Kuzari, that partying in Cancun is better than a dose of Abarbenel and that social media can bring meaning and friendship to one’s life. We need to fight back. Let’s make Torah woke again. It should be the “in” thing and at least, my children, should see that Chavie and I don’t see Torah as an afterthought or burden, but as a gift from Hashem to make life worth living.

G-d, I pledge to do my part with the Kinderlach You entrusted with me, but please do Yours, that the Bruk children of Bozeman, and all Jewish children the world over, should merit to choose Moses over Bieber, Sinai over Hollywood, and let us all say Amen.

With gratitude for our chosenness.

Your Montana salesman,


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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