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ב"ה

Weekly Message

A Rose in Havre!

In a few hours, Menny and I will head home to Bozeman for Shabbos, after our 1,100 mile, 36-hour, trip, ensuring the Kosher status of plants in Great Falls, Cut Bank, Shelby, Tiber, Chester, Havre, Big Sandy, Fort Benton, Denton and Ulm. It was a lot of driving, but I was able to enjoy sunrise near Valier and to say a prayer in Joplin where the Amtrak train crashed a few weeks back. It’s always nice to spend time where the Rockies meet the Plains. The trip’s aha moment was when I surprised my friend at his office in Havre and was able to quickly Lay Tefilin with him while he took a break from a meeting. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Chayei Sarah, we read about Eliezer, the devoted servant of Abraham, heading north to find a wife for Isaac. When he detects Rebecca’s incredible kindheartedness, he recognizes that she’s the one and the rest is history. The Midrash tells us that young Rebecca was like “a rose plucked from among thorns”. The thorns, the harsh childhood with wicked relatives, made her the beautiful rose that she was; it strengthened her, it brought out the very best in her. Yet, when the time was up, when she was ready for marriage, Abraham didn’t procrastinate, he sent Eliezer to bring her home, to the home Abraham and Sarah, the home of Isaac.

There are flowers and then there are roses. There is something really touching about a Mitzvah preformed on the high-line. Yes, every Mitzvah is special and precious in Hashem’s eyes, but I must believe that the more distant the geographical location, the further one is from an active Jewish community, the more meaning the Mitzvah takes on. It’s hard being a lone rose, the soul yearns for connection and it’s challenging to quench the spiritual thirst alone. I enjoyed my time with my brother up north, because it reminded Hashem that His roses are aromatic and beautiful no matter where they may live.

G-d enjoys each rose! 

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!!!

Abraham and the Sikhs!

Earlier this week I read an incredible story about two hikers slipping off a slick rock last week in British Columbia and landing just above the Lower Falls at Golden Ears Provincial Park. By Divine Providence five Sikh hikers were in the area and when hearing of the endangered hikers, they took off their Sikh turbans and used them to save these individuals. They tied their five headdresses together and used it as a 33-foot line to rescue the fallen. As one said “In Sikhi, we are taught to help someone in any way we can with anything we have, even our turban”

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeira, we read about Abraham’s advocation on behalf of the people of Sodom. Aside from his nephew Lot who would be saved by the Angel Rafael, Abraham didn’t know anyone in the region, yet, when their destruction by G-d was imminent, he intervened and beseeched G-d for justice. Though he didn’t succeed, as the sins of the region were too great and void of any righteous people, Abraham was ready to undermine his personal relationship with G-d, his spiritual wellbeing, to help others, even the wicked. Religion that comes before kindness and love, holiness that comes before mercy, is questionable, or, may I say, lacking.

Yet, there is another point I find fascinating in the Parsha. When Abraham, who was ninety-nine, and Sarah, who was ninety are told by the Angel Michoel that they’d have a baby, Sarah laughed, and G-d responded by saying “Is anything beyond the Eternal?”. G-d can do whatever He wishes and orchestrates it to the finest detail. The fact that five Indian natives living in Canada who are Sikh happened to have the headdress length needed to save others, is that not an act of G-d?.  Woodrow Wilson wrote “I firmly believe in Divine Providence. Without belief in Providence I think I should go crazy. Without God the world would be a maze without a clue.”

Human kindness and Divine Providence makes the world go round.

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!!!

What's your Geshmak?

We got an impressive dump of snow earlier this week, along with some frigid Montana temperatures. We had some extra winter hats and scarves hanging around the house, so I asked my assistant Mendel to find some homeless people enduring the cold outdoors and bring them the gear. Lo and behold, one of those who Mendel met in the homeless encampment near Walmart introduced himself as a Jew who’s been homeless since March, and was excited to put on Tefilin and reconnect with his heritage. What started with the simple goal of keeping people warm, ended up warming, not just the body but, the soul of a frozen Jew.

In this week’s Parsha, Lech-Lecha, we learn about the life of Abraham and Sarah, the first Jews. While they were spiritual gurus, sharing and inspiring a pagan world with a firm belief in one G-d, they also spent decades of their life just caring for people. Their MO included feeding, clothing, hosting, comforting, and fighting for, those in need physically and materially. Sure, they never lost focus of their hope that each human being would say a blessing of praise to G-d, whisper a prayer seeking Divine support or that they’d drop their idols, but this power-couple understood that to effect any spiritual change, the recipient must feel like it’s coming from a genuine place of care.  

If a Torah lifestyle doesn’t lead us to care for those in need, then what is it all worth? When I indulge in something physical it’s a form of selfishness, but when I help someone else with their needs, expressing human unity and compassion, that in itself is deeply spiritual. Last week we commemorated the 21st Yahrtzait of Berke Wolf, a dear family friend and a Chassid with a heart of gold. He was someone who literally had a “Geshmak”, a pleasure, in helping another Jew with something practical, no strings attached. They say, “the way to a man’s heart is through their stomach”, I’d add “the way to a spiritual world is through acts of kindness”.

Let’s make One Day, today!

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!!!

It's ok to be pure!

Earlier this week I had the privilege of meeting with Benefis Health System CEO John Goodnow along with some of the hospital board members in Great Falls. Mr. Goodnow, who I had spent time with the night before, said to me “Rabbi, tell them about the immersion pool”, referring to the conversation we had about Mikvah. So, over a delicious Kosher lunch, I sat talking about the Mitzvah of family purity with a group of gentiles, who were mesmerized by the idea and grateful for my openness to talk about the Jewish approach to intimacy.

In this week’s Torah portion, Noach, we read about a world overtaken by immorality and valuelessness. G-d asks “His guy” Noah to build an ark, a large boat, to save those who would earn the gift of life. He was building for one-hundred-and-twenty years trying to convince people of the impending flood, but living immorally was so addictive, so tempting, so attractive, that people chose drowning in the flood over making better choices. It’s a sad state of the human condition, choosing harm to ourselves, deliberately, despite knowing we can do better.

Chassidus explains that the forty days and nights of the flood was like a universal Mikvah, which needs to be measured at forty Se’ah, a Halachic measurement for liquids. G-d concluded that the world needed a purification, a recalibration of its holiness, and so He shut down the world He created and re-opened it after the flood with a renewed vision for, and belief in, humanity. Purity isn’t a bad word, it doesn’t mean unclean or bad; it means you are experiencing a moment of spiritual malfunction or disenfranchisement, and Hashem in His infinite kindness gave you a way to get back on board.

Be pure, it’s popular with G-d!

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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