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ב"ה

Weekly Message

A New "Humane Society"!

 

Chavie encouraged me to spend quality time with the kids on Thanksgiving, so, I make pancakes with Menny, baked granola bars with Chaya, broiled sweet potato fries with Zeesy and we had a wonderful Thanksgiving, Yud Kislev, dinner together. I shared with the kids the Thanksgiving proclamation, presented by President Kennedy, just seventeen days before his assassination, in which he writes “ On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist .”

 

 

Oh, how I wish.

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about our patriarch Jacob waking up the morning after his wedding, only to find out that he married Leah, the older, less-attractive, sister of his beloved soulmate Rachel. Unwilling to bring shame onto her sister, Rachel gave Leah the intimate signs that she and Jacob had agreed upon, so that Jacob doesn’t catch on and dishearten Leah on her wedding night. She was willing to give up on her first love just to save her sister from disgrace. Yet, when Jacob makes the appalling discovery, he vows to marry Rachel too, despite the harsh labor Laban would force upon him. Though Jacob was G-d fearing and knew of the prohibition to marry two sisters even before it was formally instituted at Sinai, he chooses Rachel’s dignity over his personal spirituality, so that she isn’t wronged into oblivion on account of his “holiness”.

 

Jacob and Rachel both chose benevolence over self-centeredness.

 

It’s a fascinating lesson for us. In a world plagued by “name calling”, “guilty until proven innocent” judgmentalism, acceptance of “destroy a reputation based on high school behavior” and constantly questioning the integrity of others based on self-defined assumptions, it’s time for us to take a good look at Jacob and Rachel. Even when mistreated by Laban, they both chose love and compassion, over egoism and sanctimoniousness. Next time you’re about to dig into someone else’s life, hoping to find something damaging, ask yourself if it’s your place to do so and whether it’s truly coming from a place of love. We have a “humane society” for animals, it’s time to introduce one for humans. JFK reminded us that it’s our role to end misery, but we can’t do that if we are creating more of it.

 

Less shaming; more humanity!

 

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!!!

 

The Papa, the Papa! Tradition!

On January 15th, I was in New York for eighteen-hours and spent a few minutes with my dad. Though we Facetime six days a week, like clockwork each morning, I haven’t seen him face to face since that chilly day in Brooklyn. Today, the 10 months stretch, that included his illness and recovery from Covid-19, ended, and I got to embrace my beloved father; it felt so good, so right. It was also good timing as on Tuesday my father lost his Chavrusa of fifteen years, Reb Leizer Teitelbaum, a brilliant Torah scholar with whom my father studied daily at the wee hours of the morning and with whom he shared a deep appreciation for Torah insight.

I needed his hug, and he mine.

In this week’s dramatic Torah portion, Toldos, we read about how Rebecca encourages Jacob to mislead his dad Isaac and merit the blessings intended for Esau. Isaac undoubtedly knew who Esau was and appreciated Jacob so much, but as a good father, he saw the potential in each of his children and worked overtime to reveal the best in each of them. It’s a unique ability of a parent, either by nature or nurture, to interact with each child, meet them wherever they are at, and have their children, all of them, look up to them for support, parental perspective and life guidance. Isaac knew that Jacob was his protege, someone who emulated his ways, but he also saw Esau - not as an idolatrous murderer, but - as a potentially fearless warrior who can change the world with his inner fight.

My dad can be a tough cookie. He is a no-holds-barred dad who says what he thinks and shares his opinion whether I want to hear it or not. Yet, behind the steamroller façade is a man who loves his children unconditionally, prays for our wellbeing more that he would admit, and wants nothing more than to see our successes as we enjoy Nachas from our children, his grandchildren. When I told the kids that they would see Zayde in person for the first time in eighteen months, all of them, from Shoshana to Chana Laya were truly delighted, because children always see through the externalities, and they know that, like Isaac our Patriarch, their Zayde sees their infinite potential, not their occasional flaws.

I pray that I can emulate my dad; it ain’t easy!  

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!!!

We're not macho!

Earlier this week, I was a guest speaker for two Jewish communities, one in the Berkshires and the other in Northern New Jersey. Though the meetings were on Zoom, it’s always nice to meet Jews of all flavors and Farbreng together for an hour or so. I was so grateful to receive a call Thursday morning from a fellow, living in rural Massachusetts, who was on the Zoom talk and took the time to call me and tell me how much he enjoyed hearing our story. He asked to be added to this email list and hoped to meet our family in person post Covid.

It meant a lot to me.

Rashi

Words are powerful and a kind word goes a long way. At times, we convince ourselves that we’re macho and don’t need compliments or appreciation, but I’ve personally learned to be thankful for those personal “thank you” calls and understand how effective they are and how good they make us feel. More than ever before, I am trying to take time to thank anyone who is kind to our family, our Shul and to those I love as I believe our world needs a lot of positive vibes. In a world plagued by hurtful words, let’s be the change we hope for and start using our verbal power to change hearts with kindness.

Compassion!

Monday evening, just hours before the polls opened on the east coast, I had the great honor of placing Mezuzot at the Bozeman homes of two young Jews. Patrick and Zoe both grew up in Bozeman with a healthy Jewish identity and were excited to get a Mezuzah placed on their front door. Chaya and Zeesy joined me for the Mitzvah and on the way home, while listening to the radio, a conversation ensued about the election process. I explained to them that we have good friends on both sides of the aisle; friends whose wisdom and thoughtfulness I appreciate deeply, and that we mustn’t ever judge someone's character based on the bumper sticker on their car or sign in their front yard. It’s important for them to hear it from me, especially as our country is so divided with lots of hurt and anxiety to go around.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we read about Abraham and Sarah’s hospitality. They served food and drinks, they provided lodging and washing basins, and they even escorted their guests on their way out, so they don’t feel like they were a burden. They gave it their all for total strangers, no strings attached, and here’s the scoop, when we are busy giving, we don’t have time to Kvetch in misery. Maimonides writes  “We are obligated to be careful with regard to the mitzvah of charity…because charity is an identifying mark for a righteous person, a descendant of Abraham…Everyone who is merciful evokes mercy from others…Whenever a person is cruel and does not show mercy, his lineage is suspect…”.

Powerful words.

Abraham and Sarah lived in a pagan world that wasn’t very fond of them, yet they didn’t spend their time bemoaning their surroundings, instead they gave, gave and gave more. They served equally those who appreciated their belief in G-d and those who thought it was ridiculous. They took care of their nephew Lot and those who they would never meet again. Americans, like all human beings, don’t all see the world the same way. Your neighbor, fellow worshipper and work colleague may have different views than you do, but like Abraham and Sarah, we should show them an outpouring of kindness, pure unadulterated benevolence, and it will heal us and our country.

Compassion begets compassion; viciousness begets viciousness!   

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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