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Weekly Message

Dear G-d...

Dear G-d,

It’s that time of year again. Humanity is getting ready to crown You as King of Kings on Rosh Hashana. It’s not only because we couldn’t find a better candidate, but because we really think You’re the best.

I’m no stranger, as I pray and talk to You three times each day and You’re quite familiar with my ups and downs and our family’s journey during 5779. You are intimately aware of our challenging hours, sleepless nights and occasional moments in which I doubted You and everything You stand for, yet, I pen this letter to You, not only to get some grievances off my chest, but to ask You to try to see things from our simplistic perspective down here on earth.  

I know that in the “bigger picture” You’re awesome and take such good care of us, but “in the present” it’s hard to always perceive what You do as good, so I seek Your blessing for uncovered good. With Your “Book of Life” wide-open this season of heavenly judgment, it would be so beneficial for us if You could express Yourself in ways that even us, stressed, overworked, overwhelmed humans, could see as essentially good, if but for a moment or two.

In the Selichot liturgy we said “Rachamana D’Onei L’Svirei Liba Aneina, May the Merciful One, Who answers the broken-hearted, answer us. I ask You today, Master of the Universe, to listen as I share with You what You already know, but perhaps from a human angle that will encourage more revelation and less mystery on Your part.  

When we visit the cancer wards, especially the children cancer centers, we ask ourselves, why? Why are so many of our fellow humans experiencing so much pain? When we see a pure nine-year-old with a brain tumor lighting Shabbos candles, we ask ourselves “is there a sin that is deserving of her suffering”? Is single parenthood not hard enough that a single mom must endure breast cancer while trying to build her family Sukkah? So, I ask You dear G-d please heal them and give us all a break from this dreadful disease. Aneina

Aibershter, I know that you strolled through the IVF and infertility clinics around the globe. You’ve seen those precious couples whom You gifted with an insatiable yearning to procreate, fulfilling your commandment to “be fruitful and multiply”, yet, You’ve taken away that ability from far too many of them. I don’t think it’s fair to give them the longing but take away the prospect. I don’t think it’s OK to bless couples with a seven-month pregnancy only to lose their precious baby to a miscarriage. I don’t think it’s fair and I’m guessing You’re not too happy about it either. I know You test the righteous, but this borders on cruelty and I know You’re not cruel, so I plead with you to bless all families with an opportunity to fulfill their worthy yearnings. Aneina

When You’re done taking care of the sick and infertile, the homeless and the weak, take a second out of Your busy schedule and help my brothers and sisters who struggle with their faith in You. I’m sure, that like us, You too give them credit for struggling and not giving up, because there are moments in which we all want to give up on You. The burden You’ve placed on some of us is just too much and we don’t know what else to do but to express anger and resentment for You. We don’t hate You during those tense moments, we aren’t real “atheists”, we simply have no one else to turn to with our frustration. Think of Rosh Hashana as campaigning for office: make it a bit easier for us and we would happily vote You in again. Aneina

Sometime during Rosh Hashana as Jews in Bozeman and beyond cry, Shofars are blown, and Your people beg for a relationship, think of those among us whose childhood was stolen from them by evil people who used their positions of power to prey on those most vulnerable in society. These Neshamos are trying so hard to fit in, working to overcome, but the trauma they’ve experienced has affected them mentally, emotionally, spiritually and, sometimes, physically, making it so hard to “just move on”. Bless them to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel and help them find proper support so that they can live a brighter future. Aneina

Dear G-d, when you’re done with the big needs, see if you can help the NIH find cures for orphan diseases like Zeesy’s Glut-1. I mean, I get there are bigger issues to deal with, but government funding or, worse yet, lack of funding, shouldn’t stop great researchers from helping those that have special genetics and bring them their much-needed healing. While you’re at, please bless Zeesy in her developmental “catch-up” studies; I’d love to see her reading Hebrew sometime soon. Aneina

Hashem, there are those who are working tirelessly to save their marriages. Husbands and wives who truly love each other but can’t seem to see the beauty in each other that they once saw. These quarrels are tough and sometimes quite messy, but You are the ultimate peace maker, Oseh Shalom Bimromav, so please gift them with the ability to make amends and keep their love and like spark alive. Aneina

Father in Heaven, our homeland Israel is under constant assault. The Jew-haters have found a “secretive” way to hate Jews and it’s via “Israel”. As promised, You’ve done an awesome job protecting Israel and its citizens, but I beseech you to inspire those seeking our demise to find alternative activities besides Jew bashing. Perhaps guide them to play Sudoku or even better to fight for those truly suffering in our world; it would be nice. Aneina

Gut'nyu, send special love to all those struggling with addiction. This is not a choice, but a disease that is so terribly hard to control. These addictions come in different shapes and sizes and consume their victims in ways that are truly destructive. Allow them the opportunity to find the “G-d of their understanding” with the assistance of their fellow fighters at meetings. Aneina

If I may, Super Daddy, peek at the social service agencies, and see what you can do for all those foster kids looking for stable homes. King David wrote that You’re “Father of orphans and Judge of widows", so help these children who with no fault of their own, ended up in some pretty horrible situations and match them up with loving parents who can gift them with a decent life. Aneina

Lastly, G-d, I need you to bless our beloved America. Our country is ripped apart by political strife. Each side claims they are right, and they are fighting for our blessed future. Personally, I think there are remarkable people on both sides of the aisle, but the animosity is out of control. Send an angel or, better yet, come Yourself, and help our country heal. We need our citizens to see the good in their fellow man and woman, so that we can work together to make tomorrow brighter. Aneina

I’m wrapping up, but please don’t misunderstand me, Almighty G-d. I love You, adore You and teach my kids and community that without You there is nothing, nothing at all. Yet, I think we are on good enough terms for me to be candid with You, so that we can start off the year on the right foot. Obviously, if you want to respond, You know where to find me. You could also solve all these issues, by ushering in Mashiach and boom, it’s all better.

I hope You have a Shana Tova, Your 5780 should be filled with Nachas from Your creation and from the people who hung with You at Sinai.

Your Montana salesman,

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!!!


A Million Dreams!

Earlier this week, we were standing around in the kitchen and the kids asked if they can watch Shulem Lemmer sing “A Million Dreams”. As his incredible voice came through my phone, the lyrics spoke to my heart:

'Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make

True that!

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tavo, Moses reminds Jewry that they hold the key to their own destiny. There is right and wrong, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, ethical and unethical, moral and immoral, and the path we travel on, is a choice we make each-and-every moment. We can opt for the path of blessing, co-creating with G-d a world of peace, unity and holiness, a world where dreams do come true or we can choose a cursed path of destruction for ourselves and the world at large. It’s not about reward and punishment, it’s not about fearing Satan with a pitchfork or awaiting a paradise in the sky but rather about our actions and their natural, and occasionally unnatural, consequences, reaping what we sow.

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I've lost my mind
I don't care, I don't care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

Dream Baby, Dream!

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!!!

 

Lego Lives!

 

Growing up, Yanky, my younger bro and Irish twin, was the Lego kid. He’d spend hours building police stations, helicopters, car garages and everything in between. I never understood it, as I was an avid student, book reader and socializer par excellence, not a floor kid. Fast forward twenty-five years and Menny comes along and loves Lego. On Monday, he received a new sports car Lego set and wanted me to help him. It took a couple of days, short increments of Lego time, but what I’ve learned is that Lego is incredibly therapeutic, demands lots of focus and provides quality father-son time. Above all, we learned the hard way, that you can’t skip ahead in the instructions book, or you will eventually be seeking a do-over.

We find ourselves almost halfway through Elul, the month that prepares us for the High Holy Days. The Chassidim of old would say “S’Blozt An Elul Vint”, meaning that there is an Elul wind that blows into our psyche, into our homes, into our communities, as we get into the New Year mode. We are blowing the Shofar daily, adding extra Psalms to our prayers and counting down to the holiest days of the year, but it’s more than the things we do, it’s how we Elul think. Elul is that time when we reflect on what we’ve done right, what needs improvement and how we plan to change. Lego reminded me that following G-d’s instructions matter, even if we’d like to believe that somehow it doesn’t.

During the next 16 days until Rosh Hashana, join me in allowing yourself a few moments of personal honesty. In those moments let’s ask ourselves “What can I do to improve my Mitzvah observance?”. Can I ensure that I always light Shabbos candles before sundown on Friday even in the heart of winter? Can I be sure to recite the Shema once in the morning and once at night? Can I prepare a kettle on Friday so I don’t need to boil the water on Shabbos? Can I increase at least one more Kosher Mezuzah on a door post somewhere in my home? Can I skip one “eating out” experience and choose Kosher at home instead? Just some food for thought. We all have spiritual struggles, I certainly do, let’s join, both you and me, to figure out how we can “Lego Our Lives”, following the instructions just a bit better than last year.

Like Lego’s motto: the best is never too good!

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!!!

Chaos in the kitchen!

Tuesday morning, while Chavie was up in Kalispell celebrating the Bris of Montana’s newest Menachem Mendel, born to Rabbi Shneur and Chana’le Wolf, I was in our Bozeman kitchen, wrapped in my Talis and Tefillin, trying to sneak in an Amidah prayer amidst the morning chaos of the kids' first school day. I made it almost to the end where we pray for peace and unity, when rather rapidly things got noisy. Zeesy began an activity of scratching the rice off of the bottom of soaking pot from Monday’s dinner, Menny found it important to pull on my pants while asking me about the content of his lunchbox and Chana Laya was on the other side of the room playing with a salt shaker, which normally doesn’t bring about kitchen cleanliness. I was trying to Daven but it was hard, I gave it my everything, with extra Kavana, focus, so that I don’t drop G-d mid-sentence.

It’s hard to stay focused.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we read about prophets. A key factor in recognizing the holiness of a prophet or their falsehood, is whether they bring you closer to G-d or pull you further away. It’s a fairly simple mechanism: when a man or woman claiming to be Divinely inspired, helps us focus more on Hashem’s Mitzvot, to be more G-d fearing and G-d loving, to ignore the temptation of secularism and the addiction to superficiality, then there’s at least a good chance that their prophecies are authentic, but, when in the name of G-d, they instruct you, overtly or subtly, to defy G-d, then we must run for the hills as this is a farce and a soulless endeavor.

There are books, gurus, programs, cults, movements, Ism’s, schools and leaders that are motivational, intellectual, deep, raw, inspirational and even spiritual, but if what they are selling, the ideas they are teaching and implanting in our minds,  makes us observe one less Mitzvah, forces us to transgress one biblical prohibition, encourages us to love Hashem any less or focus less on Him, then it’s not for you. It can feel good, taste good and smell good, but like soda, it’s produced with toxic chemicals and will never quench our thirst for G-d. Having Kavana, focusing healthfully on G-d, requires lots of inner courage and determination to withstand all types of pressure, but it’s worth the relationship with the Creator of heaven and earth.

Feeling spiritual is not as good as being spiritual!

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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