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Weekly Message

Honorable Rebels!

While traveling through Salt Lake City to take Chaya to Pardas Chana summer camp in Val-David, Quebec, I ran into Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox. We had a good chat about his health, as we’d pray for him at The Shul each week while he was undergoing chemotherapy for cancer, we spoke about the work he’s done for crime victims in Big Sky Country, and, naturally, we conversed about his run for the Governorship. We addressed the challenges of remaining a Mentsch in today’s political climate and the need for class. It isn’t easy to remain honorable and “clean”, but in life, as Chavie and I teach our children, it’s always better to lose with honor than to win dirty.

In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, we read about Tzlafchad’s five daughters and their quest for a portion in the Holy Land. They knew that the law at the time wasn’t in their favor and they could’ve easily taken to dirty, unholy, tactics to make their point. They could’ve chosen the road of Korach, the spies, Dasan and Aviram and attacked Moses' leadership, condemned Elazar and his priesthood and laid out their case to the nation in an unbecoming manner. They could’ve succumbed to the temptation of screaming “injustice” in an unjust way and they may have even gotten pats on the back for it, but they were raised by Tzlafchad to be better than that. They chose a path of respect, having a public conversation with dignity, and in a positive twist of Halachic trajectory, they brought about the results they had sought.

It had to be a struggle for them to be so vulnerable in the presence of the entire Jewish community. They had to be somewhat scared of results that wouldn't end well for them, embarrassing them before everyone. Yet, they felt they had a good case, they presented it with clarity and Moses queried of G-d for a ruling and He ruled in their favor. I’m impressed with Tzlafchad’s feminist daughters, as they didn’t just rebel against a G-dly system that seemed to ignore their plight, but rather, they sought to make changes and did so within the framework given to them by G-d and in the process changed history forever.

Screaming may start the battle; a healthy voice wins the war!

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!!!

Life, Death & 17 hours in Moscow!

My week encapsulated the fragility of life. On Sunday, I received the tragic call from Bozeman’s on-call ER physician that our Bozeman Bubby, holocaust survivor Georgette Cassen, an honorary member of our family and someone our kids visited regularly, passed away. With the help of our incredible community volunteers, we were able to give Georgette the proper Jewish respect and burial, just before I embarked on a short trip to Moscow. I traveled halfway across the world to celebrate with pure joy the wedding of Chana Lipsker, daughter of my dear friend Yossi and his wife Luba, to her groom Shlomy of Lyon, France. My heart has been swinging back and forth all week, from the grieving end-of-life moments to the beautiful moments of marriage which brings about so much new life.

If my soul wasn’t stirred enough, while flying Aeroflot back to the States, a sixty-year-old Russian man on board our flight had a heart attack and, despite four doctors preforming forty minutes of CPR, he passed away just as we entered Icelandic air space. The plane made an “emergency” landing in Reykjavik, and as the deceased was taken off then plane, the flight attendants and many passengers were crying as they experienced the loss of life. Taking this all in and seeing life through the lenses of this week’s tragedies, reminded me why it indeed DOES make sense to Schlepp to Moscow for just seventeen hours to celebrate a joyous occasion. Life is unpredictable and we should live in the moment.

While the portion we read this week, Balak, is awe-inspiring, this weekend also ushers in the “Three Weeks” when we mourn the destruction of both our Holy Temples and pray for a new era, one in which Mashiach will bring about, not only the Third Temple, but a world free of hunger and strife, jealousy and war, a ecosphere where peace will reign and G-dliness will be sought by all. When praying for that special era, we don’t just ask for that time to come “sometime”, but we ask for it “now”, like the lyrics of famous Lubavitch song “We want Mashiach now”. I often wondered why the emphasis on “Now”? Why not “We want Mashiach soon”, “We want Mashiach so much”, “We want Mashiach with all our heart”; why “now”?

 

 

 

 

Yet, the answer is simple. Everything in our life is about the now. If we live in the moment, not focused on yesterday or tomorrow, not focused on this morning or this evening, but focused on now, we end up being calmer, healthier, more spiritual, and certainly more appreciative for what we’ve been gifted. It’s not always easy to forget our many stresses, real life challenges, but “Mashiach now” tells us that life is about the now and in a world of unpredictability, living in the now is key to wholesomeness.

We Want Mashiach - and our perspective to be in the - Now!  

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!!!

 

 

A Little Seichel!

After a special Shabbos at the Rebbe’s Ohel with Menny, we headed to South Texas to join Chavie and the younger girls for a Block family reunion. Though they live in San Antonio, the get-together took place in Port Aransas, near Corpus, where we spent time playing games, catching up, visiting Texas State Aquarium, hanging at the pool and having quality time together with many good laughs. Admittedly, I’m no big fan of these gatherings, but now that it’s over, I must say I loved every minute and the experience is so important for myself and Chavie, the kids and the entire family.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukat, we read about Moses and his people, Jewry, attempting to make their way into the Holy Land via the lands of Edom and Moab. While strategically there was no logic behind their opposition to Jewish passage, they refused, because they held old vendettas from their nation’s founders, Esau and Lot. The Jews and these nations were relatives, and while they didn’t see eye to eye, they could’ve had a bit less resentment and little more Seichel and let them through. Yet, family feuds tend to fester to the point of illogical and self-destructive behavior and that’s just senseless.  

Families are complex, we don’t always see eye to eye, we don’t think alike, speak alike, or act alike, but that shouldn’t stop us from spending time together and getting over ourselves and our silly observations, opinions and misconceptions about those who are our blood. The art of “liking the people you love” isn’t always easy, but it’s the only sane way. I enjoyed our time on the Coastal Bend not because we are all the same, but because three dozen relatives, including a boat-load of first cousins, joined together to celebrate ”family”. We mustn’t make the mistake of the nations on the east side of the Jordan River; let’s resolve to end family feuds quickly, or even better, before they even start.

Choose family!

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 Rebbe...

Dear Rebbe,

I can’t believe it’s been twenty-five years. A quarter of a century!!! has passed since that horrible Sunday morning, the 3rd of Tammuz, June 12th, 1994, when my parents woke me to share the news that I never thought would come. We walked by your room at 770 that morning and saw you laying on the ground covered in a Talis, we begged you for forgiveness for anything we may have done to dishonor you during your lifetime and for all of your precious time that you spent on us, we cried as we tore our garments in mourning and we went home that night battered and broken and unsure how to move forward.

Yet, twenty-five years later, I am here in Queens, where Menny, my six year old, and I, will spend Shabbos near your resting place. We Schlepped from Montana, where we serve as your ambassadors, so that we can be next to you on this day of loss; we miss you and we just want to be close. Yes, even Menny who never met you, misses you, because he sees films of you, he knows what you teach, he, and his sisters, live your goal of spreading light to Montana and even he, born nineteen years after your passing, wants that priceless dollar from your hand, not mine. I miss you too. I bask in the memories of those twelve illustrious years under your wing and my heart aches for more of that comfort, more of that light, more of that electricity.

Yet, amid my yearning, as Chavie and I wish we could call Rabbis Hodakov or Krinsky and ask them to speak to you on our behalf regarding our challenges, both personal and work related, we are not Kvetching. We are not complaining or despairing, because you continue to electrify us every day. You excite us not only through your teachings and brilliant life lessons, not only through your depth and incredible perspective, not only through our bonding at your Ohel and holding the books that you gave us close to our heart, but through your amazing Chassidim, those precious students you gifted to the world. Sure, I try my best to be one of them too, but today I’m writing about our family being on the receiving end of your disciples’ love.

It’s your student Benny who spends hundreds of hours each month caring for Jewish children, including our own Shoshana, who are in Utah getting the therapeutic care they need. It’s your students Mendy and Dinie who take families in who may be visiting Cherry Hill for medical appointments like when Chavie and Zeesy needed just that. It’s your students Yossi and Luba who with unimaginable kindness took a newborn premie baby into their home, a baby who became our baby Chaya. It’s students like Levi and Chani who, without knowing us, opened their home and hosted Menny’s Bris when we were in Baltimore for his adoption and it’s students like Ovadia and my uncle Chaim Shaul, who after adopting Chana Laya and having a full plate with five Kinderlach, have continued to guide me in the right direction and ensure my sanity.

I don’t take any of that for granted. Each one of these students, and thousands like them, electrifies me and inspires me with their love, concern and care for anyone who may be in need. Not just spiritually, but like you dear Rebbe, their care is first and foremost for the physical and material needs of those seeking their help. I know you’ve been unable to answer my calls since 1994, I know I haven’t received a personal letter from you since my Upshernish in 1984, but your students, like Joshua influenced by Moses and Elisha influenced by Elijah, allow me to see you so very often.

I await that hopeful day when we will reunite and you’ll meet Shoshana, Chaya, Zeesy, Menny, Chana Laya and of course our beloved Bozeman community, but until then, please know Rebbe dear that you’re not only a picture on peoples walls, but a Rebbe who is etched in hearts, minds and souls.

Come see us soon Rebbe; the red carpet is rolled out for you in Big Sky Country.

Your grateful student,

 

Chaim

 

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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