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Weekly Message

The Storm That Wasn't!

Earlier this week, parts of Texas were experiencing summer storms, and, though the forecast for San Antonio seemed calm for Monday morning, the clouds over the Airport told another story. As I have a semi-phobia for turbulent flying, I was concerned for the ride over to Salt Lake City. As we took off, I said the usual Travelers Prayer from the Siddur, and awaited the bumps, which never came. The troublesome looking clouds turned out to be a very slim layer of slight bumps, and in mere seconds we were enjoying the brilliantly shining sun and the smoothest of air.

Lesson learned.

Just last night we concluded the Tisha B’Av fast, mourning the destruction of our Holy Temples in Jerusalem. Superficially, demolition seems awful, but if the demolition is to create a newer, fresher, more sturdy structure in its place, then the demolition is super positive and growth oriented. G-d gave way to the destruction, to help us repair ourselves, the world around us and bring about the third, and final, Temple. It is fitting that during this time we read the Torah portion of Va’etchanan in which we are told to “love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might”. Loving G-d with every fact of our complicated being, loving G-d when it costs us financially, loving G-d even to death as so many Jews have done, is all conceivable; but loving G-d with “all my might”, no matter “whatever measure He metes out to you” that seems unbearable. How could I love a Creator who allows me or my loved ones to suffer? To die for G-d, sure, but to live a broken life with Him, how?

As I sat and read Lamentations and reached the words “ the kindnesses of the Lord never cease, Indeed, His mercies never fail ” I felt like I was being uplifted out of my low Tisha B’Av seat. G-d throws curveballs to each of us, they are hard, they are agonizing and sometimes dispiriting. Yet, behind the darkness, above the stormy clouds, there is a light that is bolstered by the challenge. We don’t know G-d’s reasons, but we know the sacred truth that there are reasons and that this relationship, this loving bond, is worth fighting for. Like you, I too struggle, I too wonder “why me, Hashem?”, but I am always reassured that the clouds are temporary and help me appreciate the smooth air and blue skies that follow.

In the words of Helen Keller “Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it”!

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!!!


Ethical Leadership!

Each week I have the great privilege to study with many locals, one-on-one. Bonding over G-d’s wisdom, deeply insightful and practical, is always stimulating and we tend to have lots of fun. Learning with brother Baruch, AKA Seth, each week, has taught me so much. We’ve completed two Talmudic tractates, Rosh Hashana and Avoda Zara, and we are inching closer to the end of Sanhedrin which is a pretty long adventure. In our last study session, we discussed the responsibility of being a Jewish High Court member and the trepidation, fear of heaven, in which that role must be carried out.

In this week’s Torah portion, Devarim, the first in the book of Deuteronomy, we read about leadership. Moses recounts his request of Jewry, “Provide for yourselves distinguished men, who are wise, understanding, and well known to your tribes, and I shall appoint them as your heads”. Rashi explains that the Hebrew words for “appoint”, “Va’Asimem”, also comes from the root Hebrew word “Asham” which means atone: This teaches us that Israel’s transgressions are hung over the heads of their judges, since the judges should have prevented them from sinning, and directed them along the right path. Leadership is about inspiring an ethical, moral, and spiritually balanced society. The Torah demands that we find leaders whose character is impeccable; whose leadership conduct role models all the values that G-d would expect of a healthy citizenry.

When those entrusted to lead, especially those in religious/spiritual leadership, fail in their ethical and moral behavior, it’s a big letdown. Yes, humans all make mistakes and G-d is amazingly forgiving, but leaders must recognize the magnitude of their sins and the demoralization it brings with. Moses lost his ability to enter the land of Israel because he made one mistake with the rock, Miriam was plagued with Tzaarat due to a one-time mistake of gossip and King David lost out on building the Temple he dreamed of because of his war time actions. While, sadly, too many have given up on politicians exhibiting true leadership, we mustn’t ever give up on our spiritual leaders acting 100% ethically. If not them, who?

In the words of MLK “The time is always right to do what is right”!

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!!!

Zeesy is grateful!

I was honored to represent Montana in the Ruderman Family Foundation initiative, celebrating thirty years since President George H. W. Bush signed the American with Disabilities Act into law (Click here and then click on Montana). Being Zeesy’s father, a child who has a rare medical condition and as a result has special needs, it was especially meaningful. It’s humbling to recognize that children, and adults, with unique needs, didn’t always have the support of society; parents, politicians, educators and almost everyone used to see special children as burdensome and unworthy of a warm and loving home. It is by the grace of G-d that this has changed, and we now understand that these wonderful souls deserve the same care and life experience as their “regular” peers.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Matot-Massei, we read about the tribes of Gad and Reuven who requested permission to stay on the east of the Jordan River, outside of Israel. They had lots of animals and believed that the pasture in Transjordan was more suited for their needs. When expressing themselves to Moses they said “We’ll build sheep enclosures for our livestock here and cities for our children…” assuring their beloved leader that they will take care of their business and familial obligations, help their fellow Jews conquer the Holy Land and only then return back home. In Moses’ response, he says, “So build yourselves cities for your children and enclosures for your sheep”, subtly reminding them that our priority must be our children, those most vulnerable in society, and our finances, the flock, are always  secondary.

As Americans, we have come a very long way in how we see and treat our fellow human beings. Yet, even today, in our prosperous United States, there are many who struggle, who aren’t ready to face a new day each morning. The struggles may be physical and thus visible, but they can also be internal, emotional or mental, and you’d never know it. Moses teaches us to care for those who can’t go it alone and each of us has the ability to do just that by reaching out to someone, a friend, coworker, acquaintance or neighbor and see how they are doing. Not just to give them the traditional Montana wave but to actually check in and see if you can be a shoulder for them to lean on and a friend for them to talk to.

Non nobis solum nati sumus!

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 have a dream, do you?

Recently, Chavie and I were accused of having a secret agenda when asking a fellow Jew to do a Mitzvah; “They believe that this Mitzvah will bring about the Mashiach”. I thought of that claim yesterday when completing the one-year cycle of Rambam, in which I, along with thousands of fellow Jews, finished Maimonides’ fourteen books of codified law. The 12th century Torah giant concludes his magnum opus with the following words “In that era, there will be neither famine or war, envy or competition, for good will flow in abundance and all the delights will be freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know God…The world will be filled with the knowledge of God as the waters cover the ocean bed." Who wouldn’t want that? Who doesn’t want to believe that this is achievable?

This week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, gives us insight into the spiritual schizophrenia of humanity. Yes, Pinchas was a selfless hero, Moses a fearless leader and the daughters of Tzlafchad  succeeded in their fight for a portion of Holy Land, but so much of what we read reminds us that all humans, whether by nature or nurture, struggle to live sinless, are easily brainwashed into “buying” negativity and are great at talking the talk while having a much harder time walking the walk. Instead of giving up on ourselves so easily, we’d be way better off Incorporating a Mashiach outlook into our lives, bringing the internal change we so desperately need, so that we can think, speak and act, guided entirely by purity and upbeatness.

Maimonides ends his Halachic code with Mashiach and the new cycle, which starts today, begins with the laws of believing in one G-d and they’re connected. If we internalize our belief in the oneness of G-d, how every facet of creation and our personal lives is G-d guided, ordained and permeated, than we will instinctively want to live in an era where spirituality is the “real world” and temptations, suffering, addictions and strife are “unrealistic”. It’s a shift in worldview that isn’t naïve or childish, but rather optimistic, beautiful and innocent. Yearning for Mashiach, for such a harmonious time, is our way of saying that exile isn’t working for us; we want a more peaceful world, we need a more spirited society and “In G-d we Trust” shouldn’t be relegated to our currency but rather should be engraved in our heart and soul.

I want Mashiach now, how about 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!!!

 

Just ask the anti-semite!

It was heartbreaking to see demonstrators marching in New York, D.C and Los Angeles this week, spewing vile anti-Semitic and anti-Israel lies while cloaked in the cover of anti-racism. Every Jew I know stands shoulder to shoulder with the plight of black people; we understand what long term mistreatment looks like and we get how long it takes to heal, but the idea that many who are fighting, and seeking allies in their fight, for civil rights would utilize their moment of pain, their expression of anger, to attack another minority, the Jews, who have experienced so much hatred themselves, is beyond me.

It hurts to the core.

In this week’s double Torah portion, Chukat-Balak, we read about a partnership of two anti-Semites, Balak the king of Moab and Balaam the prophet of Midian, as they team up to curse the Jews and infuse them with negative energy. Thankfully, G-d tells Balaam that he will only have the ability to express words that are placed in his mouth by G-d, and as it turns out, those words were some of the kindest and most complimentary blessings that were ever showered on Jewry. It’s been the theme throughout Jewish history: when paying close attention to the rhetoric spewed against our people, you will find, in their lies and distortions, subtle compliments about who we are, and they are flattering.

When they scream “the Jews own the banks and Wall Street”, it’s their way of saying “darn, these Jews are so charitable”. When they scream “the Jews killed the savior”, it’s their way of saying “we’ve tried for 2,000 years and they still believe in ONLY one G-d”. When they say, “Jews use gentile blood in their Matzah”, it’s their way of saying “we’ve tried to get them away from their religion for so long and they are still baking Matzot for Passover”. When they say Israel is apartheid, it’s their way of saying “we are in shock of how kind the Jews are to all people in the land of Israel, no matter their race or religion”. We just need to learn to listen closely and we will see that they are trying to praise us, but their hatred stops them, so they attack. Balaam tried, Balak strived, Amalek attempted, and the Amorites gave it their best shot, but after all is said and done “Am Yisroel Chai”.

If you don’t believe me; ask your local anti-Semite!

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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