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Weekly Message

Four words that warmed my heart!

On Sunday evening, Chaya and I boarded a flight from LaGuardia to Detroit to pick up Menny from his amazing summer camp in Tustin, Michigan. An observant looking Jew, and what seemed like his mother, sat down in the row in front of us, upon takeoff he recited the “Traveler's Prayer” loud and clear, and in no-time we were beginning our descent into DTW. Upon landing, waiting for the plane door to open, we chitchatted about possibilities for a morning prayer Minyan near the airport, and when hearing that I was from Montana and Shlepping cross country to pick up the kids from camp, he said “you’re an amazing father”, which warmed my heart.

What didn’t I know about my fellow passenger Elie?

This Shabbos is the 9th of Av and beginning Shabbos (Saturday) evening we will begin a 24-plus hour fast to mourn the destruction of both of our Holy Temple’s in Jerusalem. The second Temple was destroyed in 69 CE, and we are told it was due to Jewish infighting and lots of “reasonless hatred”. I once read that the meaning of “reasonless” is that when we hate on the “other”, even though it will hurt us even more than it hurts them, and yet we won’t give up on hating, it’s “reasonless”, it’s illogical, and must be eradicated. The antidote to that is “reasonless love”, loving someone even if it means giving up on something we really enjoy, so in a sense loving them more than we love ourselves.

When I tracked down Elie via a LinkedIn friend, we had a warm, heartfelt phone conversation. It turns out that Elie’s nine-year-old daughter passed away six weeks ago after battling Leukemia for almost five years. He told me that she always made people feel good, showering them with anything complimentary that would uplift them, and Elie resolved to do the same in her memory. So, when he saw me, beaten from the travel, he said something simple “you’re an amazing father”, which made my day, my week, and really hit the spot deep in my heart. An Act of reasonless love, no strings attached, makes a real difference, and makes our world a more loving place worthy of a third Holy Temple.

Let’s do our part and make it happen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ignore tomorrow!

Yesterday, just a few hours before the sun set and we ushered in the month of Menachem-Av and the nine-days of mourning leading to Tisha B’Av, I had the great honor of officiating at the wedding of Nate and Rachel, a beloved couple in our growing community, who have, in the sixteen months since we’ve met, become very dear friends. There was something so pure, so pristine, so beautiful about the ceremony. I will share with y’all what I shared with them under the Chuppah, just before Nate broke the glass, recognizing the absence of our Holy Temple:

This week we read two Torah portions, Matos and Massei, wrapping up the Book of Numbers. In Matos we read about vows, the power of verbal commitments and their potential nullification. In Massei we read about the forty-two journeys, locations at which Jewry resided while in the desert, en-route to Israel. At each place, even if only spending the night, they would erect the Tabernacle in all its glory. It represented the stability that is needed in life that guides us to focus on the “now”, living life in the present. Ignoring today and its value because of our excitement or anxiety about tomorrow is illogical, unhealthy and unholy.

My wish for the bride and groom, is really a wish for all those seeking a “G-d inspired” relationship, including me and Chavie, and that is to have the “Matos”, the unwavering commitment to each other through thick and thin, and the “Massei”, the journey that is anchored in remaining focused on the gift that is before us now. Internalizing these combined values creates a sacred, successful, union, and helps inch our world closer to celebrate the ultimate union, the wedding we all await, that of G-d and His people, in the holy city of Jerusalem, when mourning will be substituted with joy and gladness.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift.

That is why it is called the present!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 good care of yourself!

With Chaya in Sweden, Menny in Michigan, Zeesy in New York and Shoshana in California, Chavie and I took our almost-five-year-old “baby” Chana Laya and spent four nights on the north shore of Lake Superior, Minnesota. It was refreshing, adventurous, gorgeous, and fun, and it’s important for couples to find the time to get away, even it means a little kiddo comes along. I still stayed on top of my never-ending workload, I still had an occasional stressful moment, but overall, it was relaxing and healthy for us to just be.

In this week’s Torah portion, Pinchas, we read about Shabbos and the Jewish holidays, and the offerings associated with each of them. It’s fascinating that Judaism has so many days associated with rest and “holding back” from creativity and “work”. These holy days aren’t just about leaving the mundane, but about entering a state of “service”, bringing “offerings” to G-d, which is really just a form of spiritual fulfillment for each of us. It's an opportune time for us to tap into our depth and spend time focusing on that which really matters.

In his book “The gift of rest”, Joe Lieberman writes that “G-d gave us the Sabbath as a gift, and He meant for us to enjoy it. We begin the holy day with darkness so that we can more fully appreciate the light of the Sabbath day when it dawns.”. We all need downtime, but not downtime to do nothing and tune-out, but rather downtime to tune-in to our souls, our emotions, our psyche and to why we are blessed to live on G-d’s green earth. In one of the wilderness cabins at which we stayed, there was a cellphone lockbox that said, “For a true escape, forget your phone inside”. We all need breathers and sooner is always better than later. 

 

Taking care of ourselves, ensures we can take care of others!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carrots, not sticks!

Wednesday morning, before sunrise, I brought Zeesy and her beloved counselor Shana to the Bozeman Airport to send them off to Camp Simcha, a camp for children with special needs, where Zeesy will spend two weeks being wined and dined with boundless joy and fun. I approached the Delta agents, who know me well, and told them that Zeesy was off to a special needs camp, and it would be super nice, if they have the seats, to upgrade her and Shana to business. 30 minutes later Shana sent me a picture of them both sitting up front with smiles from ear to ear.

In this week’s Torah portion, Balak, we read about haters coming together to spew negativity against the Jews. Yes, Balaam didn’t succeed, because as a prophet he had no choice but to follow G-d’s will, but he certainly tried to use his G-d given powers to bring down a nation that he disliked. I think it’s so unfortunate to live in this beautiful world and spend time, precious time, messing with G-d’s other children and belittling them in any way. Each human being is considered G-d’s only child, perhaps His special needs child, and it’s a gift to be like those Delta agents and see that specialness and do something about it.

On Tuesday my buddy in New York was having an issue with the building department in his village. Before he brought in the big guns, the threats and attorney letters, I told him to try the carrot before the stick. He called me later that evening and was delighted to share that he met with the head of the building department, and it went super well. He couldn’t believe it; he always thought you must be the tough cookie, but it turns out that a bit of Mentchlechkait, humanity, goes a long way. The Torah reminds us that almost everyone appreciates blessings and good words and almost no one likes a Balaam or Balak who spend their life mistreating G-d’s children.

Don’t be Balaam; be a Delta agent! 

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!!!

Love from Helsinki!

On Monday, I arrived at JFK Airport to escort Chaya onto her flight to Europe. She flew as an Unaccompanied Minor; I was just there to sign the paperwork and hug her goodbye. She is spending the month of July in Finland and Sweden with fellow Lubavitch girls, where she will enjoy time with her classmates from the Jewish online school and, I’m sure, making new friends. I was delighted to meet the Finnair team, from the check-in staff to the flight attendants, gate agents to the pilots, they all made me feel like “we’ve got this” and did their best to minimize Chaya’s anxiety about flying alone. They exuded kindness, and it went a long way.

In this week’s Torah portion, Chukas, we read about Moses leading Jewry towards the Promised Land. As they traversed the Transjordan, they were refused passage by various nations for no good reason. The Jews had pledged to purchase their water from the locals, eat their own food, stick to the road without deviating left or right; all they wanted was the right to cross the territory by foot. In Jewish law there is an idea of “Zeh Nehene, Vezeh Lo Chaser” meaning “One person benefits and the other person doesn’t lose anything as a result”. The Edomites, Emorites, Bashanites and the rest of them had nothing to lose, nada, and it would be so helpful to the Jews, yet they couldn’t find the kindness within their hearts to allow them through.

One of the three traits that the Talmud attributes to the Jews is that we are “merciful”. One can’t be Torah observant and cruel, it’s impossible and a contradiction in terms. Cruelty and kindness don’t dwell together. When we are younger, we can, sadly, believe that our religious principles are more important than basic humanity, genuine kindness, but it’s an absolute falsehood. My Rebbe, whose resting place I visited on Sunday, always lived by this ideal: Religion and kindness are always in sync, and when viciousness is on display one can be certain that Torah values are nowhere in the vicinity.

In the words of Abraham Lincoln “I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Praying on the Piano Bench!

Tonight, the world will commemorate the 28th Yahrtzait of our dear Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson of blessed memory. Every day, whether at sunrise when I study in the dining room or during meetings later in the day at my office, I often look up and gaze at the photo of me and the Rebbe that hangs on the wall, captured candidly on my 9th birthday, and I yearn. I miss him. I miss his smile, his dollars, his letters, his love, and I ache for our children who never met him. I know that he’s my guardian angel, but I prefer the physical, I thirst for the one-on-one, and I’m tired of visiting his holy gravesite and would rather spend time with him in his study.

In this week’s Torah portion, Korach, we read about the rebellion of Korach and his team of rabble rousers. There are so many questions about this odd uprising and how it came about, but one thing is certain, team Korach didn’t appreciate how much they needed their Moses, how beneficial he was for them, and how a strong Moses presence in one’s life makes serving G-d more meaningful, more practical, and more spiritual. Don't misunderstand: we aren’t codependents. Moses is not our savior, he’s not our crutch; he’s our guide, our uplifter, our beacon of light when the darkness overwhelms. It is he who shows us the way up to the mountain of G-d even when we feel like we are faltering.

Twenty-eight years is a long time, it’s an eternity. I still remember the call we received from my aunt Zahava sharing with my mom that the Rebbe had fallen while praying in Queens, and we should say Tehilim, holy words of Psalms. My brother Yanky and I sat down on the piano bench and prayed with all our might. Just over two years later the Rebbe passed at the age of ninety-two. Yet, despite my longing, despite his absence, despite the void I feel in my heart, his words and writings guide our every move and inspire what we do in Montana and beyond. Friends, lift a glass tonight and say L’Chaim to our Rebbe who teaches us so much and who ensured that his ambassadors won’t rest until Mashiach is here.

Rebbe, I won’t stop until we getter done!  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Torah on Flight 441!

On Tuesday, I had the honor of officiating at a memorial service in Tucson for Michel Kouhana, a special Jew of Algerian descent, who passed away unexpectedly just over two years ago. Yet, the trip was also pumped with joy, as later in the day we completed the new Torah, dedicated by our very own Nate and Rachel in Michel’s memory, now joining our other two Torahs in Bozeman. I carried the scroll with me on my two Southwest flights back home and so many people stopped me to say something nice. From the TSA agents to airline personnel, passengers on the flights and people arriving with me into Bozeman; they didn’t mock, they respected and stood in awe.

In this week’s Torah portion, Shelach, we read about the twelve scouts that Moses sent on a reconnaissance mission to Israel. Ten of the twelve came back with a negative, unsolicited, opinion about whether they should head to Israel altogether, despite G-d’s instructions to do just that. In one statement the scouts said, what I believe, sums up the Jewish identity challenge since our founding, “There we saw the giants, the sons of Anak, descended from the giants. In our eyes, we seemed like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” They felt insecure, they thought the people in Israel were too intimidating for them to take on, so they projected their insecurity onto the entire Jewish populace.

I meet Jews all day, every day. Too many of them are unsure how to share their Judaism in public spaces, whether out and about or with friends. Too many of our brothers and sisters feel like “grasshoppers” and feel like those around us are “giants” who see us as such. Kellen, the fellow behind me on line at boarding, said something to the effect of “you’re bringing a Torah to Bozeman? Are you Chabad?”. When I responded in the affirmative, he said, “my father-in-law studies with the Chabad Rabbi in Pleasanton” and we continued with a warm conversation. As Jews we don’t ever shove our faith down other people’s throats, but we shouldn’t shy away from being comfortable in our own Jewish skin, because we aren’t grasshoppers, we are children of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah.

Get a grip and be comfortable being 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!!!

Flooded with gratitude!

Can’t we ever catch a break? That’s the feeling many of us are feeling. Covid, inflation, interest rates hikes, monkeypox, forest fires, individual challenges, terrorism, school shootings, and now floods. We’ve all seen the gut-wrenching videos of our beloved Yankee Jim Canyon, Red Lodge, Gardiner, Stafford Animal Shelter as our entire region aches from this natural catastrophe. Yet, there is one thing I didn’t hear all week long: complaints. There was no blaming, no finger pointing, no looting, no confusion; there was kindness, understanding, support, gratitude, community and devoted citizens, law enforcement and search and rescue teams working with class and heart.

Montanans don’t bicker very much.

In this week’s Torah portion, Behaalosecha, we read about Jewry complaining in the desert. Imagine Moses, our beloved leader of all time, as he pronounces the arrival of Manna, miraculous sustenance from heaven, and nevertheless he hears the Jews complaining that they miss the leeks, garlic and watermelon that they had in Egypt? You want to pull your hair out when encountering such ungratefulness. So often we pray from Psalms "Hodu L’Hashem Ki Tov, Ki L'olam Chasdo”, meaningGive thanks to the Lord because He is good, for His kindness is eternal”. Let’s all try to internalize that more and not complain as much.

Cicero once said, “gratitude is not only the greatest virtue; it’s the parent of all others”.  At times, Chavie reminds me to just pause and recognize all the good, all the successes, all the positivity, because it’s way too easy to get caught up in the lack of “watermelons” when there’s Manna from heaven at your front door. It’s going to take Montana a while to rebuild, redesign and re-imagine life in the affected areas of our beloved State, but knowing Montanans, I believe it will be done with grace, gratefulness and lots of brotherhood and sisterhood.

Mighty waters can’t extinguish the love!

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 love my village!

Occasionally one can hear a child celebrating the end of their school year, “I’m finally free” or “Summer can’t come quick enough” are common expressions. Yet, that is never the case at Longfellow School where Zeesy and Menny attend. Just yesterday, they each individually expressed to me their sadness with school ending and how much they will miss their friends and teachers at this home away from home. It’s a truly amazing place of wholesomeness, where they are cherished by every staff member, and where academia is a priority, but where they also strongly value mental/emotional health, home/school balance and where my child isn’t a “number” but rather a soul in need of a rock-solid foundation.

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, second in the Book of Numbers, we read about the roles that the Levi family played in the service of G-d in the Tabernacle. Interestingly the Hebrew word for “taking a census” or “counting” is “Naso”, which in Hebrew can also mean to “lift up”. Hashem was asking Moses to take the Levi census, but also to uplift those being counted. Sometimes when we count people, even with the greatest of intentions, some of those “people” can get lost in the mix, they can go unnoticed; so, we are reminded that we “must lift up”, recognizing each of those individuals, not as a number, but as a soul yearning for inner and societal stability.

I’ve said this before, but it’s worth repeating. Chavie and I are pretty decent parents, maybe even “good” parents, but there is no way that we could “raise” these gems, gifted to us with G-d’s incredible Providence, without the unbelievable support of their schoolteachers, Hebrew tutors, Jewish online school, counselors, energy healers, extracurricular instructors, community members, and all the people who believe in these children along with us. From the depth of my heart, I am grateful to every individual who has helped the progress and development of my children (and me).

It's takes a village, and Bozeman is an awesome village!  

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!!!

Wide Receiver!

My son Menny is a devoted Vikings fan and a firm believer that Justin Jefferson is G-d’s gift to humanity. I like the term wide receiver, because in life we are surrounded, at times, by good “givers”, but lack the emotional intelligence to be proper “receivers”. Last week, we were in New York celebrating my dad’s 70th. My “Aba” is a great giver; he’s there for his family 24/7, he’s a loyal friend, and is a listening ear and shoulder to lean on for strangers in need. Yet, he is not very good at getting compliments and receiving love which is why a weekend dedicated to him being the wide receiver, not the quarterback, was really special.

Shavuos is upon us, and we know that G-d not only gave us the Torah 3,334 years ago, but gives us that same gift every year, every day, anew. G-d is very good at giving us His wisdom, but we struggle, at times, being healthy receivers. It’s like He’s handing us the key to the treasure chest, but we are too lazy, overwhelmed, “busy”, or oblivious, so we don’t turn the key to open it. He’s showering us with hugs and kisses and He’s hoping we reciprocate with interest, mutuality and by taking the gift, celebrating it and allowing it to enrich our lives.

Brené Brown writes that “Until we can receive with an open heart, we're never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help”. She’s right. The holiday is called “the time of the giving of our Torah”, but the wish we bless each other is that we “should receive the Torah with joy and inwardness”, because it’s about getting that which G-d is giving, and doing so with grace, joy and internalization.

Receive wide!

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 Cry from Uvalde!

Children. They were innocent children.

We need to pause and mourn the horror of Uvalde, Texas. We need to ask ourselves the introspective question: How do we make our world healthier, safer, and saner? It’s not about what “someone else” will do, it’s about us. We need to come together, neighbors of all flavors, to have the complex conversations about weapons, mental health, video games, TV violence, school security. Above all, we need to mourn the loss of little kids whose crime was learning math and geography.

We know that we can do better.

In our Torah portion, Bechukosai, we read about the blessings and curses that come our way. Too often, we take the simplistic view, thinking that HaShem decides whether to curse or bless us, yet that isn’t exactly accurate. G-d says that I’ve given you choices, good and bad, healthy and unhealthy, positive and negative, and our choices define what our outcomes will look like. We decide what values to instill in our children, what they hear and see, what treatment they receive for their emotional/mental/spiritual/physical challenges and what we choose to ignore and “pay for” later.

I don’t have solutions for this American tragedy, but with a broken heart and deep inner ache I propose we revisit the Moment of Silence idea that the Rebbe of blessed memory spoke about, and pleaded for, in the 1980’s. Let’s give our kids in Montana and beyond a moment each morning to think about a Higher Power, not just sports and politics. We need to do better with our country’s spirituality, and we all need to do more about the mental health pandemic; enough is enough.

May G-d comfort Uvalde, Texas, and the United States of America!

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!!!

Thunder in Paradise!

It’s Spring in Montana and the thunderstorms are going strong. On Monday, as we watched the storm roll in from the West, I had the beautiful opportunity to make the two special blessings on thunder and lightning and the kids joined me in the Brachos. We bless G-d who “Who performs the work of creation” and “Whose power and might fill the world”. There was something special in the air, as I sat at then dining room table and waited for both the lightning and thunder to appear to the North of our home over the Bridgers, so that we can make the blessings. Instead of bemoaning the storm, it felt nice to express gratitude to Hashem for the storms He showers us with.

In this week’s Torah portion, Behar, we read about the Sabbatical year. When the Jews entered Israel, they’d work the land for six years and during the seventh, they’d take a break. G-d wanted us to recognize that the physical parcel of land, which is resting, the produce of the land which is ownerless and available to all, and the farmer who is spending a year staycationing, are all created by Him and their destiny, their success, their wellbeing is determined by a Higher Power. It’s not easy to implement psychologically, but it’s so so healthy.

Pausing throughout the day whether for observing lightning, after using the restroom, or seeing a rainbow and saying “Wow Lord, this is awesome and You’re spectacular” is a really good way to live G-d-centric. We ask for so much, we seem to always seek more and more, it’s good practice to find time here and there to say, “Dear G-d, I am taking a minute not to ask you for anything, I just want to simply say thank you for all that I have”. Next time you smell a fragrant flower, make a blessing and be grateful for the flower and for the ability to smell.

Gratitude is wine for the soul. Go on. Get drunk.

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!!!

Sori's Infectious Smile!

On Sunday I was Facetiming with my dad while he visited his older sister Sori in the Israeli city of Bnei Brak. 24 hours later, his beloved sister, just a year older than him, passed away while eating dinner. Sori was a special aunt, who, together with her husband Chaim, welcomed me warmly into her home countless times. She always greeted me with a smile, making me feel at home, and never once, even when popping in unannounced, made me feel like I was a burden. Sori and her family are Biala Chassidim, we are Lubavitchers; never did that become a point of contention or even debate, we are family, we are blood, we are one.

In this week’s Torah portion, Emor, we read about the cycle of biblical holidays including Sukkos. Regarding Sukkos, the Festival of Booths, it says “and you shall rejoice before the Eternal, your God, for a seven-day period”. While joy is the Jewish way of life, in the words of the Psalmist “Serve Hashem with Joy”, there are times when we are to increase that joy, making it more palpable and noticeable both internally and externally. Sometimes we dance because we are happy, while at other times we dance to make us happy; on Sukkos we must do things that increase and stimulate our Simcha, our joy.

Sori lived with Sukkos ideology all year long. No, her life wasn’t perfect, and she certainly had her fair share of challenges and hiccups, but her zest for life, her love for family, her faith in G-d, and her contagious smile always reminded me that happiness isn’t something attained because of “things” or “statuses”, it comes from within. I didn’t speak to Sori often, we lived in two different worlds and very distant time zones, but she was an aunt who taught me so much and who always had a spot for me in her heart and her three-bedroom apartment in Bnei Brak.

Being happy never goes out of style!

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!!!

Stretch those quads!

I’ve never been an exerciser. Not that I’ve never tried, I have, it just doesn’t seem to click for me. I purchased a Peloton, it didn’t work, I purchased exercise apps and they never worked, I even tried walking/biking in the neighborhood, and it was short lived. Yet, after turning 40 in December I became more and more determined to focus on my health and this week I started a workout regimen with a personal trainer. It wasn’t easy, but I hope it will be life changing in my pursuit of a healthier me.

In this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim, we are commanded a lot. Don’t gossip, don’t live immorally, don’t ignore the poor, don’t lie or steal, don’t entrap someone to sin, don’t mistreat a convert, stay away from incest, don’t cheat your customers, don’t get a tattoo and so much more. There are so many instructions on how to live our lives in sync with G-d’s will, some of which entail refraining from juicy activities like “talking about your neighbors marriage challenges” and “making good money with a little cheating here and there”.  Yet, these choices are worthwhile, even if done incrementally, like my journey in exercise.

I once read that “if you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do you have to keep moving forward.”. If Rabbi Akiva could start learning Torah at forty, I can start working out at forty; and even if I don’t become a marathon runner or weightlifter, I can do my baby steps to enhance my health, strengthen my muscles and hopefully stick around in good shape for Chavie and the kids for a long time. Don’t give up on dreams and goals, it’s never too late for new beginnings.

Quads, biceps and abs; one stretch at a time!

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!

Passover was spectacular. Packed Seders, awesome services, delectable meals, and of course amazing guests, as we hosted dear friends and my brother Yanky and his beautiful family. On the first day of Chol HaMoed, we did a caravan trip to Yellowstone National Park. Though we’ve been there countless times, it never gets old visiting the Prismatic Springs, Old Faithful and the Fountain Mud Pots. The beauty of Yellowstone is that you can visit in silence, no need to utter a word. You simply ingest the incredible phenomenon’s that G-d created and stand mesmerized in the novelty of nature.

This week, the first week between Passover and Shavuos, we begin studying the six chapters of Pirkei Avot, Ethics of our Fathers. In Chapter one we read “Shimon, son of Rabban Gamliel, said: All my days I grew up among the Sages and did not find anything better for one’s person than silence…and whoever engages in excessive talk brings on sin”. It’s a basic Jewish tenet: speak less and do more. We have countless Torah laws about oaths, pledges, promises and idle talk; it’s intimating to us the power of speech and utilizing it properly.

They say that “a meaningful silence is always better than meaningless words”, or as it is said about a Chassidic Farbrengen “One person remains silent, and everyone listens”. In Yiddish there’s a word “Ploideren”, which means “blabbering”, a sin for which I am guilty on occasion too. We’d all do better if we blabbered less, internalized a bit more and spoke words of wisdom, depth and spirituality, not gossip, vulgarity and superficiality. I’ve been working on myself to be more intentional with my words, why not join me in this journey for the betterment of our fractured world?

Silence is better than unnecessary drama!

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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