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ב"ה

Weekly Message

All the Jews!

A few weeks ago, I did a “Rabbi Goes West” Q&A with Congregation Aitz Chayim in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was fun, the crowd was nice and the questions, even the hardballs, were intellectualizing. Yet, one question was about why “Orthodox” Jews don’t follow the governmental restrictions during Covid? I was puzzled. Not because there have not been infractions, I know there have been a few, but the question in itself is something we’d never asked of another minority group, certainly not with the same tone, and we’d spend 101 hours defending why “for them” it’s different, yet, with our own brothers and sisters, we are ok assuming the worst and can’t wait ten-seconds to actually confirm whether the New York Post or Haaretz are reporting accurately.

Today is Purim, and one of the most powerful moments in the Megillah is when Queen Esther tells her cousin Mordechai “Go and gather all the Jews who are in Shushan and fast for my sake…Then I shall go to the king”. She didn’t say go to the “Orthodox” or “Charedi” Jews of Shushan, she didn’t ask him to skip over inviting “those Jews” who attended, and sadly enjoyed, the feast hosted by wicked Achashveirosh, she didn’t ask which Yeshiva they did or didn’t attend, she didn’t even want to know their politics, whether they supported the Persian rule or preferred the Median rule that came before, she made it clear “Go and gather ALL the Jews”. She needed all of them, we need each other.

This year, as our world seems so fractured, we must ensure that within the halls of Jewish life we treat each other like family. No, we don’t need to agree, we can debate issues, even passionately, but we can’t see a fellow Jew as the “other” or we are feeding into Haman’s wishes. Haman said “There is one nation scattered and dispersed among the nations“, he saw a divided community, away from each other and saw an opening to attack. Esther’s response to the Haman’s of the world was “Gather all the Jews”. Unity amongst Jewry is the antidote to Haman, Hitler, Khaled Mashal and anyone who envisions our annihilation. When we respect each other as fellow members of the Sinai covenant, there is “light, joy, gladness and honor”.

L’Chaim brothers and sisters! We are one!

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!!!

Grid stability

With Chavie’s parents and four siblings living in South Texas, it’s heartbreaking to see what they’ve been dealing with all week. The temperatures and snow/ice is something we are used to in Montana, but Texas’ infrastructure is obviously not built for a once-in-a-lifetime storm and the results are catastrophic. While we pray for good news soon and more sunshine for the Lone Star Ståate, it’s a timely reminder about the importance of a solid foundation that's needed to feed electricity.  In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the building of the Tabernacle in the desert. We often discuss the holy components like the ark, menorah, table with showbread, alter, but there are also many verses that discuss the pegs, the bases, the pillars, and the middle rod. These, seemingly expendable, items created the foundation of the actual Tabernacle, they made it the home for G-d that it was for hundreds of years. Sure, we don’t spend our days talking about the foundation or drywall of our homes, but I assure you that if those foundations weren’t installed properly, it becomes a make it or break it for any home or structure.  In life we must ask ourselves: “What is my foundation?”. What are my principles that are unbreakable? What Mitzvah keeps me grounded and connected to the “G-d grid” that will keep me electrified even through the storms of life?. I hate it when psychologists say “we have to dig deeper”, I don’t have the patience for digging deeper, but they are right. If we don’t take the time to ask ourselves the tough questions, to solidify that which we consider foundational, we won’t have the wherewithal to withstand the storms that will blow into our lives. As they say “the loftier the building, the deeper must the foundation be laid”.  Don’t ignore the pegs!  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!!!

Grace or Shame?

“shame says that because I am flawed, I’m unacceptable, grace says that though I am flawed I am cherished”. We are living through a time when shaming others has become a way of life for far too many and grace is all but gone. We can shame you without even knowing you, we have the right to destroy you because of something you said, did or even because of the bumper sticker on your car. Grace? How often are we forgiving and giving the benefit of the doubt to others. If they apologize for an expression that is hurtful or derogatory, are we accepting it with a recognition that we all make mistakes and don’t always see the world with the healthiest lens? Is a culture that cancels people good for society?

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read bout the laws of damages. Maimonides writes “One who rebukes his fellow should not speak so harshly that he shames him…Even though one who shames his fellow does not receive lashes, it is a terrible sin. So did the Sages say, “One who shames the face of his fellow in public has no share in the World to Come...Therefore, one must be careful in this matter – that he does not embarrass his fellow publicly, whether a small or great person. And he should not call him a name which shames him, nor should he speak before him about a matter which embarrasses him.” Furthermore, the Talmud states unequivocally that “One should be extremely careful to never shame another in public. This sin is akin to murder”.

It doesn’t matter whether you know the person or not, it doesn’t matter if you’re saying the truth or not, it doesn’t matter if you’re right and they’re wrong, shaming Is shaming is shaming. I have said regretful things in my life; I’ve hurt people with my words, and I’ve been hurt by others. I’ve said things that I wish I could take back, I’ve spoken to fellow Jews, at times, insensitively. Words are powerful and shameful words can, and do, destroy the recipient. You may convince yourself that you’re “doing it for their benefit” or you’re “saving your country”, but you’re actually just shaming others. The Torah has a much better idea for how to “save your country”: don’t do onto others, what you wouldn’t want done to you.

 

Never look down on anyone, unless you’re helping them up!

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!!!

The sound of silence!

 

On Wednesday, I left home at 3:40 AM, four hours before sunrise, and drove six hundred miles for a day devoted to Kosher. I started at a plant in town, then onto Chester, Big Sandy, Fort Benton and Denton. We merited lots of snow Tuesday night and the roads weren’t plowed when I started the journey, so I needed something to play in the background as I focused on my driving. I tried both AM and FM Radio and they had doomsayers on talking about an “impending market crash” and the “environments’ destruction”. So, I turned on Rabbi Eli Mansour, whom I’ve never heard before, and enjoyed a 57-minute Talmud class about the rules in the Holy Temple regarding paschal-lamb-offering group assignments. It was heavenly, it was peaceful, it nourished my soul.

 

In this week’s Torah portion, Yitro, we receive the Torah at Sinai, with special focus on the Ten Commandments. We are told that when the revelation happened “a bird did not chirp or take wing, an ox didn't low, angels didn't fly or sing G‑d's praise, the sea didn't move.”, the entire universe was tranquil, silent. I’ve often thought of this phenomenon, where the entirety of creation absorbed the holiness of the moment, inhaled the purity of the Torah and it makes so much sense. The word of Hashem, when studied with proper intent and with recognition of its Author, has that unique ability to silence the many external noises that seem to bombard us 24/7. The Torah, when internalized, shifts us from anxious worriers to tranquil beings in service of our Creator.

 

This tranquility reminds me of our Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka, wife of the Rebbe, whose 33rd Yahrtzait we commemorated yesterday. She was a regal woman, a compassionate woman, a life partner with the Rebbe in making his leadership a reality, but more than anything, she was a tranquil woman who absorbed the innate holiness of Torah from her father Reb Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson and lived a life of devotion without fanfare, fully present but not loud, embodying Divinity with every fiber of her majestic being. As I finally reached Townsend, where the roads were dry again, I was thankful for 57 minutes of purity, of a world that is good and productive, not pathetic and noisy.

 

Shhhhhhhh…enjoy some inner calmness; noise unwelcome!

 

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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