Weekly Message

Do you believe in me?

Amid another busy week that included a meeting of the Chabad Advisory Committee and hosting guest lecturer Rabbi Dr. Shlomo Pereira of Lisbon, Portugal (watch his lecture here), I managed to skip town for a night and attend the joyous wedding of Leah Goldman, daughter of my dear friends Rabbi Ovadia & Nechoma of Oklahoma City, as she married Ariel, her beloved groom. When I arrived at the wedding hall, I was pleasantly surprised to see my uncle “Chaim Shaul”, my dad's youngest sibling, with whom I share a name. I have many awesome uncles, but Chaim Shaul is my mentor, he believes in me, lifts me up when I’m down, inspires me to go big; I was so glad to see him.

In this week’s Torah portion, Behaalotecha, we are witness to the never-ending Kvetching of Jewry. They had Manna, little crystals from heaven that tasted like their favorite dish, yet they complained about the lack of meat, demanding G-d send them ribeyes. Moses found himself on the brink of despondency, saying to G-d “Did I father this entire people or give birth to them, that You will tell me carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries an infant”. Moses is furious, but through the process of his disappointment, he verbalizes what it means to be a leader, reminding himself that a true mentor, someone who is genuinely seeking to make positive changes, must believe in their people, their mentees, with heart and soul.

Just recently I came across the incredible story of Brian Banks, a football player from Long Beach California, who spent six years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. There was a mentor in prison who reminded him that life is worth fighting for and the California Innocence Project helped fight, alongside Brian, and get his case overturned. Brian Banks was no different than any other victim of a false accusation, he just had people in his life who believed him and believed in him, and it changed his life. Moses is called “Raya Mehemna” in Aramaic, meaning “a faithful shepherd”, he believed in his people more than they believed in themselves and the results are apparent: a nation that is strong enough to persevere through thick and thin.  

We each deserve a Moses; don’t miss out!

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 blessing in the Flathead!


On Wednesday, after an incredible Shavuot that welcomed eighty Jews to Shul, we headed up to the Flathead to celebrate the Upshernish of my nephew Leib, son of Rabbi Shneur and Chana Wolf. It was such a joy to see the incredible local turnout for the Simcha, to visit with friends old and new, and to soak up the heartwarming words that Leib’s parents wished him on his third birthday. At a time when Jews, from London to Los Angeles, Lod to Salt Lake City, are being attacked for simply being Jewish, Rabbi Shneur emphasized that it’s not a time to cower or hide, quite the contrary, it’s a time to educate our children to walk comfortably in the footsteps of Moses, Deborah, Ruth and David.

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, we read the priestly blessings with which the Kohanim, the Priests, bless Jewry and with which parents bless their children on Friday nights, Erev Yom Kippur, on their wedding day and other special occasions. “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel: "May G‑d bless you and guard you. May G‑d shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you. May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace. They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, so that I will bless them.” It’s not just about wealth and health, not just about a good marriage and emotional stability, it’s about blessing our loved ones with the blessing of Divinity and a life of purpose.

Let’s share with our children, and the collective child, that Hashem blesses them with enduring protection if they choose to open themselves to His love. May these holy children merit the light of G-d, the light of His wisdom, shining through them, and that G-d will turn His countenance upon them and grant them peace, so that they are at peace with themselves, peace with their families and at peace with the world around them. May they merit to be from those through whom Judaism becomes beloved to the masses and not G-d forbid the opposite. Let's pray and hope that the next generation seeks more than just money, fame and power. 

Blessings and love, a recipe for a bright future!

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!!!

Don't blame yourself!

I was sitting in my Helena hotel room watching as ten thousand Jews were banished from their home in Gaza, and I was fuming. It was the summer of 2005 and Jews were exiled from their own land because Israeli politicians believed that eliminating twenty-one Jewish villages, making Gaza “judenrein”, would bring about peace. I waited, even hoped, for peace, I wondered whether the silent majority in Gaza and Ramallah would choose peace over war, love over hate, growth over destruction, but sadly,  they named streets after suicide bombers, voted in Hamas as their leaders, (yes, the same Hamas that writes in its Charter “Israel will exist, and will continue to exist, until Islam abolishes it, as it abolished that which was before it.”), and has chosen to send thousands of rockets into our homeland time and time again.

This Sunday night, Jewry will usher in the forty-eight-hour holiday of Shavuot, when G-d gifted us His Torah at Sinai. It’s a moment of inner joy, recognizing that we were asked to serve as His ambassadors of light, morality, ethics and wisdom to the entire world. The gift was given at Mount Sinai, Sinai from the root word “Sin’ah” which means hatred, because the idolaters of the world were so envious of our gift, of our Torah, they hated on us and still do. As we stand in Shul hearing the Ten Commandments, let’s remember an eternal truth: there is no logic to the hatred. They don’t hate us because of land or theology, they don’t hate us because of 1948 (remember the massacres of 1929?) or 1967 (remember they started that war?), they hate us because we received something that no one else did, employed by heaven to brighten the world.

Stockholm Syndrome is real and after almost two thousand years of exile, many Jews have become spokespeople for their captors, for those who hate them, abuse them, and would murder them in a heartbeat, if they could. I will never apologize for standing with my brothers and sisters in Israel and for my love of the Holy Land. I can’t in good conscious ignore what my family is enduring in Israel. “But Rabbi, don’t you want peace? When will there be peace?”, I am actually a pacifist, I always prefer peace, but not “peace” that brings to collective suicide. Golda Meir once said, “Peace will come when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us”.

Dear Jews, you did nothing wrong, their hate isn’t logical!

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!!!

Greed Isn't Jewish!

Earlier this week Shoshana, along with her classmates at the Bozeman Field School, headed off to Moab, Utah for a ten day expedition of hiking, camping and science based learning immersed in nature. When I dropped her off at school on the day of their departure, I glanced at some of the vehicles being used for the trip and wondered why they didn’t just rent two nice vans or three suburbans, but then I searched the rentals in Bozeman and realized it would cost them over five thousand dollars, because prices around here are unacceptably insane. 

In this week’s double Torah portion, Behar-Bechukotai, we read about real estate law in the land of Israel. There are laws of ownerlessness in the Sabbatical and Jubilee years, there are laws about inherited homes that were family based from the days of Joshua, there are laws about vineyards, but one verse really spoke to me “And when you make a sale to your fellow Jew or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow Jew, you shall not wrong one another.” The Torah is telling us that even though in real estate transactions it’s easy to cheat the buyer either directly or by omission, we are mandated as ethical, G-d fearing, Jews to disclose the correct information, all of it, including the exact date when this field will reach "redemption time", so that the buyer isn’t robbed of what is rightfully his/hers and what they paid for at the sale time. 

We are seeing this issue with real estate in our beloved Montana. Wealthier people are offering tens of thousands of dollars above asking price and many of our local brothers and sisters, the hard working nurses at the hospital, cashiers on Main Street, employees at the DMV, aren’t able to find a home. If they want to visit grandma in Cheyenne, that’s impossible too, because of the rental car prices. Capitalism is good, greed isn’t, and when a society is too greedy, it eventually comes back to bite us all in the you-know-what. I am no expert in real estate, but we must always ask ourselves if the extra $20,000 will make all the difference to us, because It certainly will to our friend or co-worker who is part of our community and just wants a place to live.

Be a Mentsch, even if it cost a bit more!

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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