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Weekly Message

G-d of Goats!

Coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. Those who are struggling, fighting for life itself, are in our prayers. I’ve been praying a whole lot for my father and three of his brothers who are all plagued by this dreaded disease. It’s heartwarming to see how much love and positive energy is being shared amongst neighbors, friends and the general public. There’s a lovely sense of “we are all in this together” and an inner drive to step up for those who are in need. In addition, there’s an increased feeling of deep appreciation for the selfless healthcare professionals, law enforcement officers and all those, including grocers and truckers, who are working tirelessly to keep our families fed.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayikra, first in the book of Leviticus, we read about the sacrificial offerings in the Tabernacle. While there are ten Kosher animals, only three could be utilized for the holy service and of the many Kosher birds, only two, the mature turtledove and the young dove are permitted on the alter. Why? The Midrash tells us that G-d gifted us with the eternal lesson that like He, we should always stand with victims. Oxen are harassed by lions, lambs are hunted by wolves, goats are attacked by panthers and doves are constantly confronted by birds of prey. Hashem cares about all His creations but He has a warm spot for these creatures, placing them on a pedestal, so that we never forget being holy includes caring for victims.  

It is my hope, that when this plague subsides, G-d willing really soon; when we finish mourning those who perished, celebrating the lives that were spared, re-learning the art of social interaction, we will also have become a kinder, gentler, society, internalizing that which we experienced. The plague didn’t care about our political affiliation, skin color, gender, religion, nationality or even country of residence, it attacked all mercilessly. Let’s re-channel that non-discriminatory experience to treat all - yes, even those we can’t stand - with equal dignity. We can have differences, we can debate issues, but we must never mistreat another human being, never.

Seeking our fellow’s wellbeing, even if they aren’t on a ventilator!

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!!!

Singing in the mud!

The universe is trembling; humanity is on edge. Too many deaths, so much illness, implausible uncertainty, deep feelings of loneliness and a world dreading isolation. While there’s many blessings for us to celebrate, being home alone with the kids for a lengthy period, especially in a home that is accustomed to the hustle and bustle of Jewish life, will be a hard adjustment. We will get through this, no doubt, but in the meantime, I share with you a practical idea to deal with the natural anxiety.

The book of Psalms.

I recently read in “Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life...And Maybe The World” that “if you want to change the world, start singing when you’re up to your neck in mud”. King David had many such moments, misery from enemies, both from outside the palace and from within his own family. Whether Saul or Absalom, the Philistines or Ahithophel, his seventy years on earth were filled with constant saga, fear, hardship and sadness. It was in those fearful moments that David would compose his melodies and Psalms. He’d sing to the Lord with lyre and harp, praising G-d for all His kindness, beseeching Him for mercy, and praying that his enemies don’t reach him.

One week ago, just before Shabbos, and many times since, I’ve done something I’ve never done before, I recited Psalms just to feel close to G-d. I didn’t do this when my mother was dying, I didn’t do it when I’ve been financially broke, and I didn’t do it after 9/11; I did it now. I don’t know why I didn’t do it then, perhaps the “natural” options were more visible. My mother had treatment, I could always fundraise more to secure the bank and after 9/11 we fought back and attacked the terrorists. Covid-19 is something for which I couldn’t fathom a quick enough solution, so I did what Jews do, I talked to G-d. I say Psalms every day as is customary, but this wasn’t to follow the custom, but rather to chat with Hashem.

I know He was listening, I felt it in my bones.

This Shabbos, as you celebrate at home, don’t waste these holy moments on the news, on your phone or checking your portfolio; take out your Psalms and sing to your Creator.

He will sing along!

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 getting divorced!

What an incredible Purim! I Recently heard someone say that “we need to face the fact that young Jews are not interested in Yiddishkeit”. I argued quite the contrary that Jews, including millennials, aren’t interested in watered-down forms of religion, but when offered a dose of soulfulness, they are in. With over 100 of us celebrating Tuesday evening at the Baxter, I felt vindicated. You see, they didn’t just come because it was a costume party, they have Halloween for that. They didn’t come because it was free, as it wasn’t. They didn’t come because of the L’Chaim served, as there are way better bars in town. They didn’t come for the amazing NY Deli, as we never advertised the menu. They came because they are seeking a connection with their essence, and Purim is a celebration of just that (See Purim pics here). 

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Tisa, we read about the sin of all sins, Jewry building a golden calf. The oddity of that act is discussed at length in every Torah commentary; the one detail on which they all agree, is that this was a “teachable” moment on steroids. Jewry was experiencing an existential crisis, questioning the essence of holiness, and they came out on the other side with stronger faith and a more forgiving G-d. Indeed, the Sinai newlyweds, G-d the groom and Jewry the bride faced separation that was close to an unamicable divorce, but thanks to the matchmaker Moses, they came around and their relationship prospered. It was then that it became clear that even when we struggle, this marriage will persevere, and it has for over 3,000 years.  

Being a naysayer is effortless. It’s easy to be anxious about the trajectory of the Jewish people. I’ll make an admission; I too have moments where I wonder what the future will look like. Yet, it is then that I remember the Purim celebrations,  Passover Seders, Chanukah bashes and most importantly the hundreds of annual one-on-one Torah classes, Mitzvah moments and coffee discussions I enjoy with souls on fire, wanting to tap in to our heritage, and I’m comforted. The future isn’t bright because I want to be optimistic or because I’m somewhat delusional; it’s bright because we study history and we know Jews have had it rough, rougher than today, and we overcame and are still rockin’ and Rollin.  

Who was it that said “In this bright future you can’t forget your past”?

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!!!

Clear as mud!

On Wednesday, Chavie launched her new blog Clear As Mud. It’s a new medium for her to share with the masses her unique journey and perspective on parenting, travel, wellness and so much more. I’m so impressed with all that she does to share her story, our story, with the world via Instagram and now her blog. It’s a unique balance for a Chabad Rebbetzin, as she’s devoted to Torah and its incredible spirituality, while simultaneously opening-up about the inner struggles, the moments of uncertainty and the beauty that exists in the day to day life.

In this week’s Parsha, Tetzaveh, we read about the crushed olive oil used for kindling the Menorah in the Holy Temple. The Menorah wasn’t needed for light, as there was a pillar of fire that guided the Jews during the nights in the desert; it was there as a symbolic light of holiness and it was from there that light emanated to the entire world. It was a reminder to the Jew and all those seeking spirituality, that G-d is light and if we allow Him into our lives, it is always bright.

Chavie and I have always cherished our interaction with Montanans of all flavors and backgrounds. While we are focused on the Jewish community and its continuity, we also spend lots of time and energy, sharing the light of G-d, the meaning of Torah, with all who seek it. We express how that incredible light guides us through thick and thin, through times of calm (a rare commodity) and times of tumult. It is on this public platform, that I take a moment to wish my dear Chavie all the blessings from on high for her blog to succeed as a new source of inspiration to so many, as they, like us, seek G-d’s eternal guidance in every facet of life.

G-d is there even when it’s Clear As Mud!

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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