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ב"ה

Weekly Message

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!!!

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