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Weekly Message

A match made with heaven!

On Monday we hiked up to the M and enjoyed the breathtaking views. The Tobacco Roots to my right, Big Sky at the center and, I’m guessing, the Gallatin Range to my left; I envisioned Sinai. Two million or so recently liberated Jews, are standing near a small mountain and G-d offers them His love, His wisdom and Himself. They aren’t certain about all the details of his offer, but like in any good marriage, it felt right at the moment, so we accepted His proposal and the details came later. It was a match made in heaven, but also with heaven.

The primary name of the holiday is Shavuot, which means three things: 1) Weeks – having just counted seven weeks from Passover to Shavuot. 2) Satiated – as the Divine wisdom gives the world its core sustenance. 3) Oaths – the marriage vows of the Jewish people and G-d at their Sinai marriage. For me, number 3 is key: G-d accepted us at Sinai to be His love forever, despite our royal failures. On April 11th, 1944, Anne Frank wrote: It is G-d that has made us as we are, but it will be G-d too who will raise us up again. If we bear all this suffering and if there are still Jews left, when it is over, then Jews, instead of being doomed, will be held up as an example. Who knows, it might even be our religion from which the world and peoples learn good.

Yet, the oath is a two-way street. Sure, He loves us no matter what, but we love Him too, even amid our indiscretions. The Pintele Yid, the essence of the Jewish soul, is aflame even when externally it may seem at times totally extinguished. I meet all types of Jews, “I’m a cultural Jew”, “I’m not into the religion rabbi but I will fight against anti-Semites 24/7”, “I don’t like the Israeli politicians but Israel my land”, “I don’t like much of Leviticus but I love reading the stories in Genesis”, “Judaism is nice but not modern enough”. Every Jewish soul that ever lived was at Sinai, and it is for that reason that hate G-d or love Him, live by His Torah or don’t, wake up feeling Jewish or not, we don’t know how to ignore G-d, because we can't ignore our spouse.

We honor our vows!

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!!! 

When Jewry went camping!

There's a first for everything. Chavie and I, along with the four younger kiddos, hit the road for our first ever RV road trip. We visited Missoula, Kalispell, Big Fork and Helena and enjoyed so much of Montana's beauty from a thirty-foot home on wheels. Learning to make a fire, emptying the black/grey water, staying at KOA's/Campgrounds, Zooming Torah classes from park benches, biking in State Parks; all of it was part of the experience. It was out of my comfort zone, but truth be told, I can't wait to do it again sometime soon. It was good for me to let go a bit of the "me" syndrome and get a good taste of what "not me" can offer. 

In this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, first in the book of Numbers, we read about the life and encampments of the Jewish people during their forty-year journey in the desert, living outside of their comfort zone. Life in Egypt was no picnic, but the harshness was coupled with stability.  They had food, dwelling, laundering, and basic life amenities; they were in decent shape. Now they enter a barren desert, an unknown place that is uninhabited and certainly an "odd" place to raise a family and build a nation. It is there that G-d wanted their foundation to be structured and solidified. Though they did indeed have Manna, clouds of glory, a miraculous well of Miriam; they didn’t have the cushion of permanence and every day demanded of them to live in the moment and hope for G-d's protection, sustenance and salvation. 

Spending five days in an RV, a place that is certainly more vulnerable than our home, was good for me. When the wind shook the RV a bit I was concerned, when it rained I could hear every drop, when I left a light on the battery died, when I needed to reverse it was more complicated than my car; all of it made life more adventurous, real and fun. It seems like the risk and susceptibility in the unknown creates more excitement, a dose of which we could all use just about now.

"Do" time in the wilderness; it will rejuvenate you!

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!!!

Take a Sabbatical!

While Covid-19 has made our lives vastly different, some of those differences are quite positive. Sunday morning ten women join on Zoom for Chavie’s Tanya class and meditation, later that day, sixty eight friends from around the state join together for a collective Montana Zoom discussion in which Mrs. Rivkah Slonim discussed “Unorthodox”, on Monday I spoke for a Brooklyn girls high school about living life meaningfully despite the occasional challenge, on Wednesday I gave my weekly Parsha class and later spoke for the Jewish community of North Ranch and Santa Clarita California, on Thursday Chavie joined tens of relatives for a Zoom Shloshim memorial for her Zaidy and every morning this week we’ve had our LIVE morning inspiration.

 

Covid-19 is forcing us to be more connected, more inspired.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, we read about the Shemitah year. At the end of each six-year cycle in which the land of Israel is worked by its citizens to produce sustenance, we are obligated to take a break. No sowing, plowing, pruning or planting; we are simply expected to place our full trust in Almighty G-d. He assures us that He will “command His blessing” to give us everything we need to thrive during this Shemitah experience, but He knows that for us to accept His promise, instinctively, takes a deep realization that the world has only one boss and it’s Hashem.

This current epidemic is one way in which G-d asks us to trust Him. So many of us have lost jobs, have had a reduction in pay, have been furloughed, own a company whose survival is questionable and are experiencing anxiety about the length of this reality and how it will finally end. I get it, I too have a family to feed (It’s incredible how much children can eat in a day) and I too don’t know exactly how this will play out, but I have no choice but to implement the Sabbatical year standard: recognize that the ultimate sustainer of man is super capable of ensuring we are all taken care of, as He’s done this for a very long time with great success, I may add.

In the words of King David “for him who trusts in the Lord- kindness will encompass him.”

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!!!

 

 

Finding Chavie's picture!

Just before Passover, Chavie’s uncle Mendy in Plano, Texas came across a picture of him visiting with the Rebbe on his wedding day in 1990. Alongside his mother, our Bubby Laya, stands his young niece Chavie, face to face with the Rebbe. For over a decade every time a new photo gallery was uploaded to the Living Archive, I would search, sometimes for hours, to find such a photo, but to no avail. Her younger sisters Rochel, Chaya Mushka and Rikal are all seen in the photos, but the oldest sister Chavie was nowhere to be found. I never gave up, hoping to find one and today a picture of Chavie and the Rebbe, eyes locked, is hanging upliftingly in our home (click here to see the picture). 

Today is Pesach Sheini, the Second Passover. In Temple times if a Jew missed Passover due to impurity or traveling far off from Jerusalem, they would have the opportunity to bring their Pascal Lamb and celebrate Passover thirty days later, on the 14th of Iyar. Even if they deliberately chose a path or behavior that kept them from doing Passover properly, G-d gives them a second chance. G-d never wants a Jew to feel like “it’s all over”, “I’m a goner” or “I have no hope”. Making bad choices is wrong and, for a Jew, somewhat insane, but that doesn’t mean G-d wants the Jew to stop yearning, and fighting, for a better tomorrow.

At times each of us feels like giving up. Whether related to weight loss, family relationships, mending friendships, sobering up, quitting smoking or drugs, studying Torah, increasing Mitzvah observance or getting through Covid-19; it gets hard and we want to give up. Pesach Sheini reminds us that with G-d there are always second chances to make first impressions as He’s infinite and past, present and future are equal before Him, so you can be healed retroactively. It’s acceptable to change course, rethink strategies and own our past mistakes, but it’s never acceptable to use our past errors and failures as the reason for today’s laziness.

There is no failure, except in no longer trying!

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 want to be induced!

On Wednesday Menny turned seven with a party for the books. Thirty plus members of our Jewish community, classmates from Longfellow along with Menny’s teacher Ms. Garton, friends from around town and Gallatin County’s Sheriff Brian Gootkin with a team of deputies all drove along Huffman Lane to surprise Menny and bless him with good wishes for his big day (see video here). It was special, really touching; we adapted to the Covid-19 situation and created an induction of joy and fun for all. So many of those driving by commented how grateful they were that we did this, “it was so much fun”, “it’s great to be here with others”, “so glad to see you guys”; all while following the distancing recommendations.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Acharei-Kedoshim, we read about the priestly service on Yom Kippur in the Holy Temple. Every move the Kohen Gadol made was detail oriented: what he ate and drank in the days prior to Yom Kippur, where he slept, who spent the nights with him, when and where he immerses in the Mikvah, what offerings he sacrificed on the alter, what clothing he wore at which time of the service and how he celebrated, along with Jewry, upon reaching atonement at the end of Yom Kippur. Judaism recognizes that though inspiration comes from within the depth of our soul, the atmosphere around us, can help induce the needed feeling for the day.

We are all struggling as we journey through this new reality. Kids are yearning for school, parents are yearning for a quiet moment, businesses are yearning for income, employees are yearning for a paycheck and everyone I know is yearning for “normal”. Amid all this, it’s easy for us to fall into the trap of despair, depression and hopelessness; on some days, I feel that way too. Yet, Menny’s birthday reminded me that simple things can change that mood, by intentionally creating an atmosphere of joy, positivity and optimism. Find a good excuse, a birthday, anniversary, graduation, new home, or anything else you can think of, and throw a party. Whether online, via a drive-through or by meeting in your front lawn 20 feet apart, see, and interact, with fellow humans who you love and you will cheer up.

Create the tone; the change of heart will follow!

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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