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ב"ה

Weekly Message

Have a heart!

It was a week of frigid temperatures outside, reaching close to -40 at times, but also a chill crept up on my inside, as I watched reasonless war engulf eastern Europe. Yet, despite the alarming coldness, we merited a dose of warmth, as we hosted world renowned Vlogger Shlomie Zionce for a riveting talk about his travels around the world. He emphasized how throughout the Middle East, wherever he goes, from Dubai to Riyadh, the people appreciate him specifically because he shares his heart, his human love, while dressed in his traditional Jewish garb, without hiding his Jewish identity.

In this week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, we read about the two project managers charged by Moses to assemble the Mishkan, the Tabernacle in the Sinai desert. Betzalel was from a prestigious family and Oholiav was from an ordinary tribe who wasn’t well connected. Yet, they both shared a common desire for service, were uniquely creative, and had so much heart.  Moses hired them together, because it’s not our family lineage that matters most, it’s our heart, our passion to do good, create holiness and give G-d a place to feel at home in His world.

When we travel on the same flight, when our car breaks down while experiencing life-threatening temperatures, our humanity, our heart, is all that matters. Jewish or Buddhist, white or black, Ukrainian or Russian, Cat or Griz, Israeli or Arab, the only thing that matters is our inner soul, our willingness to help another. Moses did his part to convey that idea to us: Who our grandmother was doesn’t matter as much as who we are and how we choose to share our life with the beautiful people around us.

Intelligence and compassion are equal, but our compassion is more equal!

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!!!

Destigmatization!

On Sunday we hosted a “Super Soul” Superbowl watch party, with forty members of our Bozeman community who are homeless. It was so special, so important, so bright. Each of these souls has a story, a family, an inner yearning for a better tomorrow. We naturally stigmatize, “they don’t shower”, “they are on drugs”, “they should’ve worked harder”, “they should pick themselves up by their bootstraps” and so on and so forth. It’s wrong. Seeing my son Menny and daughter Chaya watching the Rams and the Bengals while being surrounded by this unique community, warmed my heart, and hopefully destigmatized this reality for them.  

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki-Sisa, we read about Moses and his personal touch. He comes down the mountain, sees the Jews sinning with idolatry, adultery, and murder. Instead of giving up on his ungrateful and cowardly nation, he sees their humanity, recognizes their soul, doesn’t disown them in their weakest moment for his own convenience, and, though it was a super uncomfortable place for him to be, stuck between an unhappy G-d and a chaotic people, Moses makes a choice to remain in the trenches with his people, changing the trajectory of the Jewish nation.

” about individual challenges. Moses lived this theme, on Sunday, we brought it closer to home, and we need to do better, making it a vocal part of our dinner-table conversations. Stigmas are foolish, thoughtless and, at times, dangerous. If we really want to see a brighter world, a more peaceful country, it starts by putting on Moses’ glasses and seeing our fellow citizens, all of them, with a twinkle in our eye.

In a world of algorithms, hashtags, and followers; let’s celebrate human connection!

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!!!

Numbing the pain!

On Tuesday, we took three of our kiddos to renew their passports and Chana Laya refused to take her photo. Something about taking pictures seems to always trigger her, making her uncomfortable. It took bribes, two creative parents, the kindness of a USPS employee, to get it done. A day later, Chavie and I were having a deep discussion about a potential reality that is emotionally painful for us.  It became clear that I don’t like pain, it makes me super uncomfortable, and I prefer suppression to feeling its rawness.

In this week’s Torah portion, Tetzaveh, we read about the bells that would jingle from the bottom of the High Priest’s cloak. On Yom Kippur, he was wearing his white linen garments, but the rest of the year he made a noisy entry. The Rebbe explains that the High Priest represented all Jews, not just the spiritual perfectionists who devote themselves in quietude to G-d, but even the average Jew who is drowning in the waters of temptation and crying for help.  The loud jingling bells reminded the Kohan Gadol that his role is way bigger than serving just those who are like him.

All living creatures experience pain. We wish it didn’t exist, we prefer calmness, happiness, and wholesomeness, but pain is a reality. Some become addicts to numb their pain, a few become religious zealots to cover up their inner struggle, and some, like me, suppress it, hoping that if we hide from it, it will go away. It’s a mistake. G-d loves us in the pain, G-d is holding our hand in the struggle, and G-d asked His High Priest to always remember us as we tread water, trying to survive the drowning waves.

Chavie and I are here for you; don’t go it alone!

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!!!

Longfellow & Moses!

Yesterday, Chavie and I spent an hour meeting with Longfellow Elementary School principal Ms. Conwell and special education teacher Ms. Anderson. The team at Longfellow has always been amazing with our kids; loving, devoted, understanding, supportive, just out of this world. I feel like our society lumps everyone into “systems”, but in truth, while no system is perfect, and the school system in some cities leave a lot to be desired, here in our beautiful Bozeman, our school staff are exceptional human beings. Starting with Chaya in 2015, they always treat our children with sensitivity and are deeply understanding of the heart of each child.

In this week’s Torah portion, Terumah, we read about the Mishkan, the holy Tabernacle built for G-d in the Sinai desert. When constructing the Menorah, Moses struggled, and G-d said to him “just throw the gold into the fire and I will form it”. I once read that one of the reasons Moses may have had trouble with the Menorah, is because it was crafted from one piece of gold and yet divided into seven lamps. It seemed to simultaneously express uniformity and individuality. The seven branches seemed devoted to a common goal of illumination, yet each emphasized their own G-dly path to reach that goal. It’s hard for human beings to appreciate the Menorah and it’s complexities, but adding G-d’s special touch into the mix makes it possible to glow. 

Education is tough. Too many teachers don’t get a wage that matches the cost of living in Bozeman, they give heart and soul with very little fanfare, Longfellow’s building is pretty old and not that big, but they come in each day with smiles, love and a sincere belief in our children’s future, and give them each what they need so their individuality can bloom. Today, I am taking a moment to thank Ms. Watson, Ms. Perry (both of them), Ms. Garton, Ms. Bunkers, Ms. McGeehan, Mr. Edelen, Ms. Shafer, Ms. Ritter, and everyone else at Longfellow who have done wonders for our beloved children. You don’t hear this enough from me:  thank you for making each candle of our Menorah shine!

Thank a teacher; they are a G-dsent!  

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!!!

Dignity of the Thief!

Earlier this week, a dear friend of mine, who is a respected physician, was the recipient of derogatory accusations and name-calling from a few of his childhood friends. His crime? stating an opinion that differed from theirs. It was baffling. Later in the week we hosted Governor and First Lady Gianforte at the Chabad Center for a candle lighting ceremony in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. In our meeting we spoke about educating our youth to respect all people, even those with whom we disagree. I told him how Chavie and I strive to raise our children to share their opinions with confidence but to refrain from berating or defaming someone else due their opposing view.

In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read about thievery. We are taught that if one steals someone’s ox or lamb and slaughters or sells it, the perpetrator must compensate the theft victim with more than the usual fine of “paying double”. With an ox the fine is fivefold the value of the ox, and with a lamb it’s four times the lamb’s value. Why the distinction? Says the Midrash that when one steals a lamb, they carry it on their back and it’s humiliating for them to Shlepp through town like that, so we deduct part of the fine in recognition of the thief’s humiliation.

We are concerned with the dignity of a thief.

Human beings shouldn’t agree on everything. The world would be boring and bland if we all looked, thought, spoke and acted exactly the same. G-d didn’t intend for us to see eye to eye on all issues. He gave us a Torah, guided our behavior and told us to respect all of His creations. In Judaism, debating issues is key, vital to our inner growth, but canceling others, hating our fellow, disavowing loved ones, over disagreements, is as un-Jewish as eating pork. Our Montana community is made up of Jews that are all over the map in their thinking and that’s what makes it a bright rainbow of Jewish life, and hearing so many unique opinions make me a better rabbi.

Dignity, dignity, dignity!

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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