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I'll miss you Joe!

Friday, 14 August, 2020 - 8:06 am

While the beginning of my week was uplifting, serving as the Sandak for baby Meir Shlomo Vogel in Missoula, the end of my week was heartbreaking. My dear friend Joe Sharber, Yosef Ben Noach, passed away after a struggle with cancer. Joe had a one-of-a-kind mind and a love for wisdom that was insatiable. He was gentle, sensitive, and kind and I, along with my family and community, will miss him dearly. Though he wasn’t Jewish, he’d always tell me “I’m going to Daven in Hashem’s Shul” referring to the majestic natural settings of Big Sky Country.


In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we read the second portion of the Shema prayer. In it, G-d tells us “ if you hearken to My commandments that I command you this day to love the Lord, your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul ”. Maimonides asks “ What is the path to love and awe of God?” and he goes on to explain that “When one ponders God's great and wonderful acts of creation, and sees in them a genius that has no comparison, then automatically a person will love, praise, glorify – and deeply desire to know the greatness of God”. Straightforward and simple: if we want to know G-d, not just believe in Him, we must immerse ourselves in nature, cherishing every roly-poly and eagle, every elk and bison and enjoying every sunset and sunrise. Belief in G-d is only valid when we can’t see Him, otherwise, it’s a copout.


Joe was my mentor. He educated me about science and history, nature and Greek culture. We swapped knowledge; he’d learn Torah at my classes, and I’d take in every bit of incredible wisdom he shared. In 2015 Joe emailed me a quote from The Great Mission, a book about the Baal Shem Tov, which said, “ Whenever he returned to the village, the Jewish residents shook their heads in dismay….”Another traipse in the forest! Why does he disappear for hours on end in that dangerous place?” …..Yisrael ignored their well-meaning criticism. He knew they could never understand what drew him to the forest – the untouched majesty of nature, his craving for solitude and privacy, and the closeness he felt to the Creator.” And then he added " Rabbi, if nature is good enough for the Baal Shem Tov, then it’s good enough for me. Off to the woods I go.”


Enjoy heaven brother Joe; I hope it’s as beautiful as Montana!


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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