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ב"ה

Weekly Message

Shtultz!

Earlier this week, I stood with my family at the Old Montefiore cemetery in Queens saying Kaddish for our beloved mother on her tenth Yahrtzait. I recalled a few months back when one of my mom’s cousins asked me “Chaim, what is it about your mother that made you feel so connected?” It’s something I never really pondered before; it was just natural, she was our everything. As I stood near her aging gravestone, I understood that one of the most incredible gifts she gave each of her children is Yiddishe Shtultz, the oomph and comfortability to stand up boldly for what we believe, unapologetically.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash, we read about Joseph testing his brothers prior to identifying himself to them as the “brother they sold as a slave”. When Judah, who took responsibility for his little brother Benjamin, realized that this “government official” is going to take Benjamin prisoner due to a set-up with a planted goblet, he couldn’t stop thinking of the anguish of his father Jacob who had already been mourning the loss of his son Joseph for twenty-two years. Judah had seen enough.  He approached the premier of Egypt and sternly informed him that Jacob’s soul is uniquely connected to Benjamin and that, come what may, Benjamin is going home to Canaan. It is then, seeing the full repentance of his brothers and how much they cared for his baby brother Benjamin, that Joseph reunited with his beloved family.

Judah knew that when a Jewish soul is on the line, we don’t play around.

Me and my siblings aren’t clones and don’t see the world the same way. We view finances, raising our children, spiritual journeys, and life priorities differently and even argue, on occasion, about those differences. Yet, in addition to our deep love for, and bond with, each other, we have certain characteristics that our mother ingrained in our essence. She spent her life being a loyal friend, a kindhearted advocate for all those less fortunate in her community and always standing up for her innate principles, even when they were unpopular. She didn’t blow people off; yet she shared her thoughts bluntly, with a smile, and gave everyone lots of food for thought. Judah had Shtultz, so did my mom, and it’s something more Jews should incorporate. If you share wishes of Merry Xmas more times than Happy Chanukah, you may need a rejuvenation of that Judean Shtultz.

Be kind, be respectful and be a proud Jew; it’s not a contradiction!  

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!!!

 

A Happy Funeral!

…and there was light. It was an epic Chanukah. Over 100 people attended the Menorah lighting with Godfrey Saunders, the Yeshiva students, loaded with Latkes, donuts, Mezuzos and Tefilin, visited Helena, Billings, Great Falls, Livingston, Big Sky, Three Forks, Belgrade, Manhattan and so many homes in Bozeman, I had the honor of sharing the Chanukah light with our State leadership and to wrap it all up, thanks to the incredible work of Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin and his team led by Patrol Chaplain Jeremy Kopp, we had our first Menorah parade with twenty one vehicles adorned with Menorahs, while being escorted through Bozeman and Belgrade by six Sheriff cruisers with lights and sirens. (See the Chanukah photo gallery here)

Am Yisroel Chai!

In this week’s Torah portion, Mikeitz, we read about the life shift of Jacob’s sons, the tribes of Israel. Joseph, once a family pariah and former servant/inmate, ascends to royalty as premier of Egypt, while his older brothers, once tough cookies capable of taking out an entire town, have lost even the most basic ability to feed their families. Yes, the same men who twenty-two years earlier dismissed Joseph with an unhealthy dose of cruelty, are now beseeching their ill-treated brother for mercy and literal sustenance. As my Aba always says “A Rehdeleh Drait Zich”, the wheel of fortune goes round and round and don’t get cocky when you’re on top, you don’t know how long that will last.

There are times in our lives when it seems like darkness is prevailing, light is fading, and human goodness is all but lost. There are days in which we feel despair, we are overtaken by anxious uncertainty and we don’t know what to make of our current reality. Joseph’s story reminds us that we mustn’t ever let present reality dictate or predict our future. Wednesday night, as we rolled through town, receiving such positive feedback from Jews and gentiles alike who publicly expressed their appreciation for the overdose of light, I realized that hope is real, miracles are visible and we are inching closer to the time when impurity will be no more.

We coined the Menorah procession as the “funeral of darkness”; may it never merit resurrection!

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!!!

Darkness is counting on you!

It has been an incredible week. Sunday evening we enjoyed a fascinating Farbrengen with Rabbi Mendy Chitrik of Istanbul, Turkey, later that evening a fresh delivery of Kosher food arrived in Montana from our friend Meyer at Weinberg Brothers in Minnesota, on Tuesday and Wednesday, 215 donors joined together to support our Unstoppable Love campaign (you can still donate at www.Charidy.com/UnstoppableLove) and last night we ushered in the Festival of Lights, a holiday with a message that reverberates in our hearts and souls some twenty one hundred years later. No pandemic can stop the yearning for light, the quest for religious freedom and the hope for a better tomorrow.

This evening, before sunset, a Menorah will be kindled in each Jewish home. Though last night we already lit one glowing flame, that didn’t suffice, and tonight we will light two. Talmudic sages of the Hillel and Shamai academies debate whether to start with one at the onset and end with eight at the finale, or to start with eight and end with one. We follow Hillel’s opinion which is to always increase more light, never going backwards in the realm of illumination. It’s not an easy idea to implement in our day-to-day life, but it’s vital. In the words of De Vinci “Iron rusts from disuse; water loses its purity from stagnation... even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind”.

Baruch Hashem Chanukah is popular. Even self-proclaimed secular Jews, who may even have an Xmas tree in their home, are proud of their Menorah, their ability to sing Dreidel Dreidel and their love for potato latkes. Yet, amid all the fun, it’s an annual reminder that yesterdays light isn’t enough to illuminate todays darkness. As the negativity ups its ugly game, the forces of light have two choices, either be overwhelmed by gloom or increase the glow to knock darkness off its feet and, perhaps even, out of the park. This isn’t an “inspiring slogan”, it’s the cold hard truth: if those seeking holiness take a break, we are toast, but if we keep up the good fight, if we stand up for the eternal instructions of the Torah, we increase a second candle tonight and a third tomorrow night, our influence will transform our world for the better.

You be the miracle of light!

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 my brothers!

Earlier this week I celebrated my 39th birthday. It was nice ushering it in with a beautiful family dinner produced by Chavie with bells and whistles just for the seven of us. While our Montana community will come together on Zoom to Farbreng, as we do each year for Yud Tes Kislev, this year with Turkish Rabbi Mendy Chitrik (sign up for the zoom link here), it was really uplifting for me to spend three hours on Tuesday with classmates, colleagues, relatives and my two brothers, Yochanan and Yanky, on a Zoom Farbrengen with our uncle Chaim Shaul who we adore and respect. It’s been hard the past nine months being away from loved ones, and having two hysterical brothers, who make me laugh and are always there for me, is something I cherish every day.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayishlach, we read about the heartbreaking, and heartwarming, reunion of Jacob and Esau. After thirty-six years of estrangement, during which each of their families grew and their mother Rebecca passed-away, these antithetical twins reunite. They loved each other, they missed each other, but, sadly, they can’t live with each other, as Esau’s lifestyle is one of larceny, homicide, idolatry and womanizing, forcing Jacob to keep his family far away from him. At times we overlook the human aspect of our biblical figures; the grief, the hope, the sorrow, and the affection. Jacob and Esau couldn’t live with each other, but they couldn’t, and didn’t want to, ignore each other either.

Reading these stories stirs me to be grateful for my siblings. My two brothers and two sisters - aren’t just pitiful blood relatives who share my DNA, but - are my best friends. It’s not a given, as too many families experience acrimony and separation, so I am deeply appreciative of my beloved siblings. Jacob’s son Joseph had it rough with his brothers too, so did Cain and Abel, Solomon and his brother and too many others; the Torah shares these sad episodes to teach us how fragile the human ego can be and how quick a family can fall apart. I, for one, hope and pray that our family always remains unified; there is nothing like it.

We may not have it all together, but together we have it all!  

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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