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Weekly Message

Judah didn't go it alone!

Pulled off by my older brother Yochanan, ten of my dearest friends from around the world surprised me last Shabbos and joined me for my 40th birthday at the Rebbe’s resting place in Queens. The brotherly inspiration we enjoyed is still vigorously flowing through my veins; to feel loved and to experience true friendship is extremely soulful. Life may have its moments, but with a solid group of friends, those who celebrated in New York and those who will celebrate in Bozeman on December 12th, I know that I can overcome any obstacle, succeed more than ever imaginable and live life with optimism and zest.  

It is this type of legit friendship and moral support system that kept Judah the Maccabee determined to beat the mighty Greek authoritarians. He didn’t have the gentile world on his side, he didn’t have most of the Jewish community on his side, he didn’t have his government on his side; he had his father Matisyahu, his sister Chanah, his brothers Shimon, Yochanan, Yonatan and Elazar and a small band of devoted Jews who demanded, and fought for, the ability to celebrate their Jewish tradition in the Holy Land of Israel, persecution free. They saw lots of death in their ranks and too many maimed soldiers in their midst, but they had the wherewithal to keep up a three-year battle because they had each other.

As Chanukah commences Sunday evening and we kindle the first candle of our Menorah, let us gaze at the flame and be grateful to G-d. We are blessed to be on “team light” and to have family and friends who are also fighting the good fight alongside us, as we collectively brighten our world with the light of Torah, light of tradition, light of morality, light of G-d. As we traverse the state bringing Latkes and Light to our Montana Jewish family, we will remember that Judah didn’t need to win a popularity contest on Instagram or Twitter, he just needed his buddies.

Happy Chanukah!

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!!!

Open-minded anchoring!

On Monday, about thirty women, members of one of Bozeman’s PEO chapters who raise funds to help young women afford a college education, joined together at our Synagogue for their monthly meeting. Holly, an active member in our Jewish community and a member of PEO, served as the hostess. As I sat in my office, I could hear Holly welcoming her non-Jewish friends and explaining to them how the purchase of our Jewish Center came about, as she explains the setup of the sanctuary and how we worship. It was refreshing to see a Jewish woman who is confident, comfortable in her Jewish skin, stand with Shtultz, teaching, even inspiring, fellow Montanans about Am Yisroel.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayeitzei, we read about Jacob’s life in the home and neighborhood of Laban. Jacob didn’t survey the town and assess whether being Jewish, a son of Isaac and Rebecca, grandson of Abraham and Sarah, should be public knowledge or not. He didn’t change his lifestyle, alter his values, to please his new friends. He understood that to survive in our chaotic, sometimes cruel, world, one needs to have an anchor, something to keep us grounded and for him that was the lifestyle he internalized from his Abrahamic family. We can, and should, be open-minded to hear from, and live with, those who aren't on the same page with us, but we mustn't be wishy washy to change our principles to impress them. 

Later in the week I traveled to Whitehall, where a group of teenagers banded together to create a holocaust project and worked with the town librarian Jeannie to bring awareness about the Shoah to this community of one thousand. I shared with them the story of my Zayde Reb Shimon Goldman and what it taught me about respect for all human beings, no matter our differences. I was asked many questions about Judaism, and, like Holly, was able to share its beauty with wonderful Montanans eager to hear all about it.

Be yourself. Everyone else is already taken!

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!!!

Burdensome love!

For the past few months my vision has been struggling, especially while I enjoy my ninety minutes or so of Torah study in the wee hours of the morning. Last week, I visited the local eye doctor and was expecting to hear that my vision deteriorated, instead the doctor shared with me that my current glasses were way stronger than they should’ve been, and it resulted with my eyes engaging in a battle with my glasses, hurting my vision. I got my new glasses yesterday and it seems to be working already.

In this week’s Torah portion, Toldos, we read about Esau and Jacob, beloved twin sons of Isaac and Rebecca, each of whom chartered a different path for themselves and their descendants. Jacob and Esau couldn’t be different, yet Isaac saw the best in each of them, seeking to bless them each with a good and productive life and tried, to the best of his patriarchal ability, to be there for them as they traversed the journey of life. It’s not easy to be a parent, certainly not of such distinct children as Esau and Jacob, but it’s a gift to work with them individually, allowing them to be themselves, without overburdening them with the need to be carbon copies of us, their parents. Like my glasses saga, more isn't always better. 

We are told that “the kids who need the most love will ask for it in the most unloving ways”. I find myself at times expecting my children to be me; to love Torah like I do, to enjoy socializing like I do, to be a foodie like I am and to be organized like I am. It’s unfair for them to have to live in the shadow of my unrealistic expectations. I need to learn from Isaac to see each of my children for their uniqueness, their strengths, their special personality, and appreciate their way of seeing the world. We can hope and pray for their spiritual and physical wellbeing, but we can’t dump our hopes on them, because that’s not parenting, just unhealthy parental projection.

If Isaac can cherish Esau, we can all cherish our kids!

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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