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Weekly Message

Vote & Let Go!

Chavie and I voted; so should you. Not because “it’s the most consequential election of your life”, not because “if you don’t vote, you aren’t doing your civic duty” and not even because “you can’t complain about the challenges plaguing our society, if you don’t go out and vote”. You should vote because Jews almost never had the right to join the public discourse and have a say about their government. They didn’t let us vote in the Muslim middle east or in Catholic Europe, they didn’t let us run for state office in Maryland until 1828 and they didn’t let us vote at all anywhere in this country back in 1776. It’s a gift that came to the Jew some two hundred years ago and we mustn’t ever take it for granted. Don’t be anxious, don’t fret, don’t freak out; America will still be America on Wednesday morning, no matter the results. Do your part, vote, and let Hashem take care of the rest, as He always does.

In this week’s Torah portion, Lech-Lecha, we read about Abram and Sari (later to be renamed Abraham and Sarah) who are told at the age of 75 and 65 respectively, to pack up and leave everything they knew behind and head out to the land that G-d would show them. It was an act of faith, obedience, that resulted in them inheriting the land of Israel, garnering wealth, having children, winning a war, partnering in a covenant with G-d about the Jewish future, and, for Abraham and the Jewish males, bonding with G-d through circumcision, a sign in the flesh creating an eternal bond. I’m sure it wasn’t easy, but letting go of that which was out of their control was a healthy choice that brings peace of mind, heart and soul.

I’m an anxious guy. I like being in control, I enjoy being busy and following a rigorous schedule and I hate, absolutely hate, being powerless. This is my daily, perhaps even hourly, struggle; it’s one of my demons that I wrestle with all the time. In my head I know that G-d is in charge, in my heart I really want to let Him in, but sometimes I simply can’t and so I get panicky. The tenseness never helps, it get’s me nowhere and so I fight back and work hard to remain trustful and faithful and recognize that I could only make the vessel for the blessings, I can only do my part, and the rest, the outcome, will come about exactly as it should, exactly as the Architect Himself plans for it to.

Vote, pray and trust in the One Above!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Not bad, just clueless!

Earlier this week, though visiting San Antonio to celebrate her dad’s sixtieth birthday, Chavie resumed her women’s Tanya class and meditation. It was fascinating to see nine women join together on a Sunday morning to speak about, and meditate on, their Neshama, their soul and its struggles. In a world where people “don’t have lots of spare time”, in a society that is overly obsessed with political fodder and at a time when most people are experiencing some level of anxiety due to Covid, it’s impressive, simply impressive, to see people come together to focus inward, on their core, distraction free.

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, we read about the tower of Babel. A group of Mesopotamians were concerned that the great-flood survivors would scatter across the earth, leaving the centralized community, as they each seek a parcel of land to homestead. These “concerned citizens” decided that the only way to stop the scattering, is to build a megalopolis that would include the worlds largest skyscraper/tower, so they can “create for themselves a name”. They understood that to gain popularity, to ensure a self-aggrandizing legacy, one can’t do it without a crowd of admirers and if everyone is living rurally, their desperate need for never-ending recognition, will go unfulfilled. G-d didn’t like the idea and He miraculously confused the builders, thus quashing their plans.

Each moment on earth gives each of us an opportunity to choose whether to live or not. No, not whether to exist, but whether to live; living with balance, focus and productively. Creating a legacy with “things” that don’t have eternal value, is silly and fruitless. The people building the Tower of Babel weren’t “bad”, just clueless and misguided. We too mustn’t spend our life pursuing lifeless and finite legacies, instead, we should create legacies for G-d, for Judaism, for authenticity, for the spirituality that lives on long after we’re gone. Building towers of light and spirit are selfless and provide for us the only legacy that really matters which is a rock-solid relationship with our Creator and a future generation that gets it. Towers of arrogance or towers of holiness? You decide.

Construction is tough; make sure you’re following the right architect!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

I slept for nine hours!

Earlier this week, I visited five companies in seven cities across north-central Montana to inspect their manufacturing plants, ensuring they’ve earned their holy “Kosher” status. Chavie saw how exhausted I was from the non-stop holiday season, so she encouraged me to leave a day early and get a break. After checking In to the hotel, I spent time catching up on my daily studies of Maimonides, Chitas, Talmud and Chassidic thought and proceeded to turn off my phone, laptop and every bit of light in the room and slept for nine hours. It was healing, refreshing, and rejuvenating. No noise, no distractions, not interruptions; just self-care to give myself the rest I needed.

In this week’s Torah portion, Bereishis, the first in Genesis, we read about the six days of creation and the seventh day on which G-d rested and asked us to do the same. G-d dictates that for the six weekdays (including our beloved Sunday) we should devote our time, energy and money to creativity and productivity. During the week we ask ourselves what we can do to make the world a better place, a home for the Divine, a place of morality, ethics and kindness. Sunday through Friday afternoon we are on a mission to weed G-d’s garden that is the world, but on Friday just before sunset, we say goodbye to the garden, and spend the next twenty-five hours ensuring the health of the gardener. It’s vital, because If the gardener is too tired, unstable or dysfunctional, the garden will never be cared for properly.  

Envision a blissful Shabbos: We come home Friday afternoon, we ensure our home is stacked with Kosher delicacies, eighteen minutes before sunset the candles are lit, we welcome the Shabbos Queen in melodious prayer, we eat an incredible meal filled with harmony and wisdom, we enjoy quality time with our spouse if we’re married, we get a rock solid night sleep, we wake up to a cup of coffee with a dose of mysticism, we hear the Torah being read as we chat with our Creator, we enjoy another stupendous meal, we get a good Shabbos nap or spend time with our children reading/talking/playing, we pray again, we eat a meal made up mostly of fruit and wrap it up with a beautiful hallowed Havdala ceremony. No phone, no TV, no election, no politics, no radio, no work, no market, no business. I did it on Monday, and we can do it every Shabbos.

The Gift of Rest!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

Joy of Divinity!

Sukkos is my favorite holiday. I enjoy sitting in the Sukkah with friends and family, singing, Farbrenging and devouring Chavie’s incredible cuisine, as we celebrate the agricultural holiday that vividly reminds us of G-d’s love and protection. I looked at my Lulav and Etrog this morning, Hoshana Raba, and smiled, as it looked fairly beaten, but for a good reason: Seventy-five Jews made a blessing on it this holiday (see pics from Sushi in the Sukkah). Yet, the quintessential joy of this season comes to life on Simchat Torah. As a child I was honored to dance and sing with the Rebbe of blessed memory at his Shul and experience pure joy. I was thinking back to those days and pondering the name itself “Simchat Torah”, the “Joy of Torah” and the importance of actually celebrating the Torah as a gift, not a burden.

In a beautiful letter to his grandson, Reb Chaim Volozhiner (1749-1821), the renowned Talmudist and Ethicist, writes “I encourage you to learn with great excitement and passion; for the material studied an entire day sluggishly can be learned through several hours of studying energetically”. Sitting down to learn Torah is a good start, but if we are in love, not only with the wisdom of Judaism, but with Almighty G-d, the Author of the Torah, then we learn these eternal words with zest and enthusiasm. We dance with the Torah two days each year, but the dance, or at least the joy, should be a daily exercise for our soul.

You may be saying “Oh I wish I could’ve studied Torah as a youngster, but now it’s too late”. Yet, like Rabbi Akivah, a noble shepherd who started his Torah journey at age forty, it is never too late to bring the life of Torah into your life. Starting Sunday (October 11th, 2020) we will commence the new cycle of Torah study with Bereishis, the first portion in Genesis. One portion each week, divided into seven for each day of the week, and at the end of the one-year cycle you’ve studied the Five Books of Moses in its entirety. You can study it online, order Chayenu or buy a Chumash, but the bottom line is: it’s 2020 and the Torah is at your fingertips, don’t let it slip away.

How I love Your Torah! All day it is my conversation!

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

I love the willows!

It was a truly uplifting Yom Kippur in our front yard. We had beautiful Minyanim throughout the entire day and there was a deep sense of gratefulness to Hashem for blessing us with weather that allowed for in-person services. Yet, before we even broke the fast, the joy of Sukkot was felt in the air. As we concluded the Day of Atonement with the special Napoleon’s March, and the powerful “Gut Yom Tov, Gut Yom Tov, Gut Yom Tov”, we immediately shifted from our inscription in the Book of Life to the Festival of Booths, Sukkot, when we celebrate G-d’s protection of our people in the Sinai desert and His continuous protection this very moment.

One of the Mitzvot of Sukkot is the shaking of the Lulav. We take a citron, date palm tree branch, myrtles and willows and we bind them as one and make a blessing. It represents the four types of Jews: The citron that smells and tastes good signifies the Jew who studies Torah and observes its precepts. The palm branch whose dates taste good, but are unscented, signifies those who study G-d’s wisdom but don’t follow His instructions. The myrtles that smell great but are tasteless, signifies the scrupulous Mitzvah observer who doesn’t spend time studying Torah. The willow, tasteless and fragrance-free, signifies the Jew who neither studies nor acts Jewishly. On Sukkot we bring all types of people together as one, focusing on their essence, their soul, and not allowing outward differences to get in the way of our harmony.

I’ve been thinking about the willow Jew a lot lately.

It is true that many Jews don’t study nearly enough Torah and don’t devote their precious time to the observance of Mitzvos, yet they are proud Jews, comfortable in their connection to our three-thousand-year-old heritage and are happy to do a Mitzvah if the opportunity arrives at their doorstep. I looked it up, willows are a great source of vitamin C, they are used medicinally for toothaches, skin irritation and reducing fever and contain salicin, the main ingredient in aspirin. So, my dear fellow willow Jews, I just want you to know that my Rebbe instilled in me and Chavie the ability to see that every single person contributes something to our world. Don’t ever call yourself a “bad Jew” or any other derogatory term, as you may not be learned or observant yet, but you can heal our community and with you, only with you, can we heal our world.

I am deeply grateful for the willows! 

May G-d guard our brethren in Israel and the world over from harm and send us Mashiach speedily. May G-d protect the armed forces of Israel and the United States wherever they may be. Shabbat Shalom! Chazak!!! L'Chaim!!!

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