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Weekly Message

Hired Security or reliance on G-d?

Saturday night, we ushered in a new week with a joyous family Havdalah service and the weekly watching of Living Torah. All was well until I reached for my phone and saw an email sent to me on Shabbos by our Shul security director, who is a gentile, sharing with me the news about the hostage situation in Texas. It was personal this time. A rabbi and his congregants being held hostage by an Islamic terrorist? Again, a Shul under attack? Did we sign up to be community shepherds or to be special forces? We prayed, we hoped, we waited with bated breath to hear good news, and Baruch Hashem we did. They made it out to return to their loved ones and no innocent lives were lost.

In this week’s Torah portion, Yisro, we read about Jethro’s arrival to the Sinai desert and his loving recommendation to his son-in-law Moses to delegate his rabbinic duties to various sages in the community. He warned Moses that if he kept up with his 24/7 grueling work, he’d burn out, the community will eventually despise him, and he them. He was reluctant at first, but G-d agreed with Jethro, the work was delegated, and the overwhelming burden on Moses’ shoulders dissipated. It was an interesting balance between spiritual service and practical living, proving that one without the other can’t really function well. It took a loving, supportive, outsider to see what was happening and to help balance it out.

It would be nice if I didn’t have to worry about the safety of our beloved congregants, but, sadly, that is not an option. The same G-d upon Who I rely on to protect us, wants me and our community to do our part in securing our Shul facility. Since moving to our new center, we have security inside and outside of our Shul, and we take it very seriously. We do it because just as we are obliged to pray and hear the Torah reading, just as we are commanded to eat Matzah on Passover and eat in a Sukkah on Sukkos, we are commanded to protect ourselves from harm. So dear terrorists, you won’t stop us, you won’t demoralize us, you won’t get your wish, we will keep Davening, we will keep studying Torah, we will keep celebrating Yiddishkait; and if you mess with us, we will take you down.

Don’t be too lofty to forget to save a life!

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!!!

Seven points of light!

“Rabbi, Is the Torah just for the Jews?”. That is a question that I am asked all the time. The answer is an unequivocal “no”. There are six-hundred-and-thirteen Mitzvos in the Torah that G-d commanded to the Jew and seven that He commanded to Adam and Noah for all of humankind. Earlier this week, after months of tedious and collaborative editing, we published a beautiful brochure and website to share these seven laws with our fellow Montanans and people around the world eager to learn about these values. I pray that it succeeds and that we merit a world with more holiness, civility and humanity.

In this week’s Torah portion, Beshalach, we read about the Jewish women, led by Miriam the Prophetess, who sang songs accompanied by instruments galore after the splitting of the sea of reeds. Where did they acquire instruments one-week after the exodus? Our sages explain that during the enslavement, despite watching their children, even babies, being abused by the cruel Egyptians, they never gave up hope on the impending redemption. At their core, the bedrock of their existence, was a foundational belief in G-d, in Moses, in a bright future, so they set aside whatever instruments they could get a hold of, so that when they are freed, they’d have a way to express their joy.

On Monday we will commemorate the life of Martin Luther King Jr. who once said, “our capacity to deal creatively with shattered dreams is ultimately determined by our faith in G-d”. He was so right. Each individual, every society, needs a solid foundation on which we can rely to carry us through changing times, even extremely challenging eras. The seven Noahide laws are universal values that have withstood the test of time and are eternal in nature. Miriam and her ensemble of women taught us that with the right values, core beliefs, redemption is not only a possibility or probability, but a reality.

Study these seven and share it with the world!

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!!!

G-d and His tow truck!

Yesterday morning, as Bozeman experienced a few hours of whiteout conditions, Mendel, who joined our team in August, had his inaugural winter moment, when he ended in a snowbank on Bozeman Trail Road. I immediately drove over to transfer the kids to my car and take them to school, and an hour or so later he was pulled out and back on the road. It’s the story of life: our vision gets blurry, the conditions seem untenable, we hit a bump in the road, but with the help of friends and family, with guidance from the Torah, we get pulled back up and hit the road running towards our destination. 

In this week’s Torah portion, Bo, we read about the monumental exodus from Egypt. The Jews had strayed badly. They were addicted to paganism, many were uncircumcised, they were uncertain about Moses their leader and some even spent the night before the exodus in the homes of their Egyptians neighbors, when they were meant to be at home so that G-d can pass them over and save them. These weren’t Jews living a holy life, they were spiritualty dysfunctional at a minimum, perhaps even wicked. Yet, G-d didn’t allow their “stuck in the ditch” mindset to rule the day; He would be their tow truck and get them out. 

So often, I find that in my life, when I hit a snowbank, miss a milestone of a loved one, or get an unexpected bill, I lose focus and get stuck. I get anxious, even angry, and, though, the rest of the day could’ve been awesome, super productive and even successful, somehow the bump takes me down. Yet, it’s so wrong. Hashem reminds us that getting stuck shouldn’t be a paralysis sentence, it’s foolish to even think that life won’t have moments in which we get stuck. Being a healthy G-d fearing human being means to acknowledge that we’re only stuck temporarily, then we must get up, rock on and leave our personal Egypt.

G-d will help you out, just call on His tow truck!

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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