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Weekly Message

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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