Want to keep in the loop on the latest happenings at Chabad Jewish Center of Petaluma. Subscribe to our mailing list below. We'll send you information that is fresh, relevant, and important to you and our local community.
Printed from JewishPetaluma.com

From the Rabbi's Desk

Can You Believe It?

Entering into the Hebrew month of Nissan, Passover is right around the corner.

If we were in Egypt, Pharaoh is just about ready to throw in the towel, having been battered by ten intense plagues. Freedom is so close you could almost smell it. Or could you?

The Jews had been slaves for 210 years, that is more than several lifetimes. Freedom was the stuff of fairytales, murmured as they lay another layer of bricks on the pyramids. This was worse than Alcatraz. No water to swim through, no window bars to peer through. Would they even care to pick themselves up off their dusty cots and believe in Moses?

The Matzah tells us an incredible story of faith. They were so ready that when Pharaoh, himself a firstborn, came running to Moshe during the last plague, it was instantaneously "go time". At the drop of an Egyptian dime, an entire nation - over 600,000 - were en route. To the unknown. But to freedom. To a brand new life as the Jewish nation. And that they were absolutely certain of.

Perhaps, it was this very staunch faith, that merited the redemption.

In our own lives, it may look dark at times, but keep believing. The light at the end of the split sea tunnel is surely right around the bend.

Behind the Costume

 

Why do we dress up in costumes on Purim? It's fun and makes for great facebook profile pictures, but it's got to have some meaning behind it.


You see, the Purim miracle was different than our usual idea of a miracle. The quintessential miracle that comes to mind is the splitting of the Red Sea, defying the very laws of nature. Something supernatural; extraordinary.

In the Purim story, the miracle is "natural". When Haman wants to annihilate the Jewish nation, it just so happens that the queen is Esther, a Jewess. It just so happens that Mordechai had saved the king's life from a poisonous assassination attempt. It just so happens that King Achasverosh is sleepless and has this very story read to him from his royal book of chronicles on the very night that Haman comes to the king to get Mordechai hung on the 50 cubit tall gallows that he built. 

Purim is about seeing Hashem's hand and guidance woven into the fabric of everyday life. Not readily apparent, but there right behind the mask, right below the surface.

Let's recognize and appreciate all of the goodness that we are blessed with in our life, and let's celebrate!

Grounded!

A brand new airplane crashed in Ethiopia this week.

Eerily similar to another accident involving the same model airplane, the 737 Max 8 has been grounded around the world until the investigation is completed and the issues are resolved.

Not all countries were on board with the grounding right away, insisting that the aircraft was airworthy and flew thousands of flights a day safely.

I want to give a Purim shoutout to Indonesia and China for taking the initiative which snowballed into a worldwide ban of what was billed as a modern, fuel-efficient, air vessel. Here's why:

Haman's downfall was orchestrated by Queen Esther's clever plan of inviting the king (and Haman) to her feast, only to disclose that she was a Jewess and thus was included in Haman's evil decree to annihilate the Jewish nation. But to execute this plan required serious guts. The rule was that no one - not even the queen - dared come to the king without being summoned. Esther had not been called for 30 days. The offense was punishable by death.

But with the lives of her entire nation on the line, there was no room to think about personal consequences however severe. Life is too precious to ignore. Thankfully, the king extended his scepter sparing her life, and subsequently, she was able to plead for her people.

Sure, grounding the airplanes can be inconvenient. Money lost by airlines. Travelers with canceled flights. crowded airports. Billions lost by Boeing. But that is all trivial compared to preserving a single priceless life.

Perhaps if we can take this value to heart and share it with the world, we can reach a time when there is no room for hate and murder, no room for life-involving decisions to be swayed by money or honor. A time when life is paramount, valued and appreciated by all.

This can be summed up by a single Jewish word that fits perfectly with the Purim spirit: L'chaim -To Life!

Community vs Individuality

Community or individuality?

Should we all be alike sharing common values, tastes, and gaols? Or should we each be on our own individual track, distinct, separate, and essentially alone? Am I better off conforming to a template or blazing my own path (and perhaps sticking out like a sore thumb)?

Good news is we can get the best of both worlds. The name of last week's Torah portion was Vayakhel - that Moses gathered the Jewish nation together. This week is Pekudei - counting, each individual is distinct. Both elements are needed.

Last week, as we celebrated Shabbat 100, or rather Shabbat 120, this idea was crystal clear. The palpable energy in the room was electrifying, a magical crowd that could not be duplicated in miniature. And yet, the beauty of it was to have 120 individuals, each with their own identity, passions, and pursuits. The only way that Shabbat 100 was possible was by bringing together the individuals.

And that is where the magic is at. If we all simply became identical, then we are just redundant iterations of ourselves. Pretty boring, and to be honest, I'm not sure I'd want to spend Shabbat with one hundred me's. However when we each bring our unique contributions to the table, and we merge together for a shared interest, a common goal, that's a party that I'd like to go to. It may be unattainable on our own, but it is unstoppable when we join forces. 

Let's keep on getting together for good things, and with each of our personalities, we can together continue to achieve miracles!

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Dovid Bush

Super excited to welcome our counselors, Gitty, Sarah Leah and Chaya to camp this year! Hailing from Vancouver, Toronto, and Atlanta they were handpicked for Camp Aleph this summer! Will you be joining the 20 kids already enrolled for a summer of a lifetime?

Shabbat 100 - Sold Out!

One year ago, the Petalumacommunity came together in an incredible way to to make the Chabad Jewish Center's downtown location a reality.
Today, we prepare for the first-ever Shabbat 100 - and it is a sold out crowd!
Jewish Life in Petaluma is happening.
Tonight, wherever you may be, take a moment to allow your life to be special, to allow that special Shabbat ingredient to permeate your life, filling it with peace, holiness, and blessings.

From Warsaw to Ukraine

I danced from Warsaw to Dnipro.

The year was 1929. Warsaw, Poland. The wedding between the future Chabad Rebbe, Menachem Mendel, and his bride, Chaya Mushka, daughter of the previous Rebbe was being celebrated. Notably absent from the joyous occasion were the groom's parents. His father, Reb Levik, was the rabbi of Yekatrinoslav (now Dnipro), Ukraine, which was under Soviet rule. The KGB, who had outlawed anything connected to Jewish life, would not allow him to travel out of the country even for his son's wedding. Instead, at Ulitza Mironova, #9, (Reb Levik's Shul) they had held an absentee wedding. The Jewish community came together, toasting L'chaims and dancing the night away with the Rebbe's parents, Reb Levik and Chana, to bridge the distance. In their hearts, the map morphed together and the oppressive Soviet regime faded away from their consciousness.

In 2006, I had the privilege of volunteering at a Jewish orphanage. The address was Ulitza Mironova, #9. Home to 45 boys (the girls had a separate home a few minutes away), each one with a less than ideal family background. We strived to provide them with the stability, care, and love that they so desperately were lacking. These boys became my family. It was an enriching experience, and as a result, I continued to return to lead their summer camp experience until I got married and started a family of my own.

2019. Dnipro, Ukraine. Reciting the blessing under the Chupa (the wedding canopy) at the marriage of one of the boys I was closest to. He has an incredible story and has grown into a fine young man, on a path of success and admirable accomplishments. I had flown on three planes and traveled overnight on a Russian train to be there for this moment; for this boy. Yes, I had flown through Warsaw, to dance at the wedding of a boy who had grown up in "Mironova". The Soviet KGB is now gone. Instead, the Chabad center in Dnipro - the largest Jewish center in the world - stands defiantly and proudly. The Menorah Center is 7 buildings of flourishing Jewish life, from 5 classy kosher restaurants to the Menorah hotel, to a Jewish museum, and so much more. And yes, a stunning, state of the art, wedding hall.

It had been ten years since I was last there, and it took 70 hours of travel, but the map between Petaluma and the former "Yekatrinoslav" morphed together, the Soviet regime an obscure memory, and I celebrated a beautiful and memorable Jewish wedding with my "family".

What Should I Wear?

Clothing. To care or not to care?

Shopping malls, boutique stores, brand names. A host of materials, textures, colors, and designs. Wrinkle-free, dry clean only, or tumble dry low. Does this outfit match? Are these colors in season? Elegance vs comfort. Decisions abound.

One question that we don't usually ask is "why do we care?". If I am doing honorable things with my life, have noble pursuits, and am trying my best to contribute to the greater good, then why should I bother myself with something as mundane and regular as clothing. Perhaps it is pulling focus from the more important things?

This is what strikes you when reading the bit in the Torah about the priestly garments. The Kohen Gadol (high priest) wore a golden breastplate with twelve inlaid precious gems, a robe with pomegranate shaped ornaments and golden bells dangling from it, a custom-designed apron made from the finest of materials. Why should it matter for someone so intensely involved in the spiritual, to wear such specific material clothing?

The answer is, The Kohen Gadol had an awesome responsibility. He served in the Holy Temple, representing the entire Jewish nation, to achieve Divine atonement and blessing. This task required a strong focus and an intense sense of devotion—one which he might not naturally have felt. However, donning beautiful garments, an action that made him “look the part,” ensured that his heart and mind were in total focus.

When you wear the right clothing for an activity, it gets you in the zone. When you wear your Shabbat finest; that freshly pressed suit or exquisite gown, you help make the moment special. You become in-tune with the experience and more effective at your task at hand.

Sometimes, just like changing your clothes, all it takes when you're not feeling it - is to simply try it on. You may find yourself, bedecked in this new glamorous setting, enjoying every minute.

We've Got Snow!

We don't get snow very often around here, so when we woke up to the beautiful snow-covered mountain caps on Tuesday, it got me thinking.

Spending time in the harsh winters of Montreal and Ukraine, we were split about this pristine white substance. When I'd wake up as a child to a New York blizzard, it was absolutely magical. Noses pressed to the frosty window panes, my sister and I couldn't wait to put on our coats, gloves, and boots, and head out into the backyard to play and frolic, build a snowman, or help our dad shovel the sidewalk in front of our home. We'd then come inside for a hot drink with a cozy blanket and an interesting book.

But what about when snow days mean you can't get to work, and the car is stuck behind a mountain of snow shoved upon it by the snow plow? When it turns into a muddy slush or weighs too heavily on your roof. When your flight is canceled or the pipes freeze.

When we wake up in the morning, we can either choose to focus on all of the challenges and obstacle that we may encounter when we step outside to face the world. We may just want to pull the blanket back over our head and pretend that the world doesn't exist. Or we can choose to view the world through the prism of magical opportunity, a canvas upon which we can create, explore and grow.

Let's choose to perceive the beauty and blessings that surround us. Gather your gear and head out to play!

"A Tzadik in Peltz"

With the fluctuation in weather and the Siberian temperatures in the midwest, I was reminded of the Chassidic adage "a Tzadik in Peltz".

Translated, it means a pious person in a fur coat. What is the meaning behind this cryptic term?

When it is winter and it is freezing outside, there are two possible approaches. One is to build a fire, the other is to put on a warm fur coat. While both seem to accomplish the same goal, building a fire creates warmth for everyone in the area, while donning a fur coat only benefits oneself. 

As we navigate life, let's ensure that we aren't complacent with our fur coats, thinking only about our own comfort and well being. Let's extend the consideration to those around us, light up their lives, warm their hearts. Let's change the weather!

The Power of Women

When the Torah was given, Moses was instructed to first teach it to the women, recognizing the central role that women play in both family life as well as in society.

When you are talking about setting the tone for the future of the nation, Jewish life and values, rising to the task of making this world a better place, it's the women. If you want to ensure the long term success of leading a more spiritual life, a life of Higher consciousness, of making this world a veritable home for Hashem, the women are uniquely capable of spearheading the effort. The rest of the nation will follow their strong example.

This weekend, Devorah is joining 3,000 Chabad women, all leaders of Jewish communities around the globe, for the annual convention known as the Kinus. They will share, inspire, and rejuvenate before heading back to their respective communities to continue impacting hundreds and thousands. 

So as I am attempting to maintain some semblance of order in the house this weekend - no small feat - I celebrate all of the amazing work that Devorah does both at home and in the community and am grateful that she'll be back at the helm anchoring us and keeping the ship headed in the right direction.

If you want to see an incredible display of global Jewish women's leadership, tune in live to the grand banquet of the convention on Sunday at 2:30pm 
www.JewishPetaluma.com/Kinus

Talking of incredible women who change destiny, we are so excited to be hosting Marthe Cohn on Feb. 5th. She overcame all odds, spied on the Nazis gaining crucial information on their troops' movements. At the age of 98, she travels the world sharing her story, and we are fortunate to have her coming to Petaluma. Only 50 seats left! 
www.JewishPetaluma.com/Remember

Money

This came up during one of my coffee meetings this week, trying to get to the bottom of the powerful green substance. What is the deal with money?

An important element of the exodus from Egypt was G-d's promise to Abraham that "they will leave with great treasures". In this week's Torah portion, is when He makes good on that promise. Why is this important? Is money good or bad?

As the Jewish nation was readying themselves to receive the Torah, this was perhaps the most potent and concentrated example of what they would be facing. You see, the purpose and goal of this world are that we should make the right choices. Having two options open in front of us, and then beating the odds by doing what is right. 

Money, like most of the world, is neutral. It can be used like the mafia for greed, jealousy, theft, and dishonesty. Or it can be used for kindness, charity, nutrition, and healing. Hospitals, educational institutions, community centers, or even a coin to someone who needs it, are all powerful expressions of generosity. Gold can be used for the golden calf, or to build the Holy Temple. It's about transforming this world from the ordinary neutrality and tipping it to the side of special.

May we all have what we need in abundance and do incredible things with it!
 

The Birth of a Nation

The birth of a nation.

The most well-known stories of the Torah take place in Egypt. 400 years of slavery, Moses and the burning bush, ten plagues, and at long last, the splitting of the Red Sea.

After this miraculous sequence of events, they begin their journey to Mount Sinai to receive the Jewish constitution, the Torah, and become "the chosen nation". The question is, weren't they already a nation? Who were slaves in Egypt if not for the Jews? So what is the big deal about becoming a nation at Sinai?

When we talk about a nation, a unit of individuals, they can be associated by a shared circumstance, connected by a shared land, and they can even be linked by a shared set of values. In any one of these instances, once you remove the connector, the structure falls apart. If they think differently, believe differently, live differently, the unit is no longer.

Jewish Nation 2.0 was different. The connection went deeper than any of that. A soul-level connection. Chosen by Hashem. Now it was a simple reality, untethered to any conditions or contingencies. Of course, there are numerous Mitzvahs, myriads of Talmudic debates, plethoras of opinions and customs, but that's what we do, what we think, not who we are. To borrow from the pledge of allegiance, one Nation under God, indivisible.

The Beauty of Vacation

Winter break. Holidays. Vacation.

However you may be spending your time, there's something beautiful about it. Less stress, more family, it's almost another world. A time to live out your dreams, experience a different reality, create lasting memories.

In fact, those moments may be so enjoyable that you are left wondering what is real life? Is it the 9 to 5 grind of everyday life, the commute, the bills, the never-ending to-do list? Or is life those fleeting days that we manage to get away and escape the rigors of the usual life?

The truth is that this juxtaposition plays itself out every single week. It's called Shabbat - or Shabbos. There seems to be one sort of flow during the week, as we tackle the frenzied pace of the mundane, and an entirely different aura when it comes to Shabbat - a time of serenity, connectedness, and peace.

This system is by design. It allows us to appreciate how special these special times are, reminding us that these are the moments we live for, these are the people and values that make all the toil worthwhile. And yet at the same time, the goal isn't just to get to the finish line and escape, but to return from that experience invigorated, motivated, and inspired. To take that clarity and energy, and invest it into the day to day, thus elevating our complete experience.

And that only happens when we are able to fuse the magic of Shabbat with the conventional mode of "normal" life. Then we have something Extra-ordinary.

 

Anchored

Anchors. A brilliant invention that allows a ship to survive stormy seas without being battered against perilous rocks jutting out of waters.

It's a reality check. While the shipbuilder surely had all the confidence in the world that his vessel was seaworthy, it would be foolish to head out on a voyage without an emergency preparedness kit, thus ensuring the safety of those on board, despite what any external forces may throw their way.

Once these measures (markers on a hiking trail, GPS trackers, the North Star) are in place, one can traverse treacherous terrain and yet remain on course.

This is precisely what Jacob did prior to going to Egypt. Aware that Egypt wouldn't be a walk in the park for the fledgling Jewish Nation, Jacob sent Judah to establish a place to study Torah. This would be their anchor. This would ensure that they would be able to rise to any challenges. That they would be like a buoy and float blissfully above any waves.

It is for this reason, that Jacob was able to live his 17 best years in the Land of Egypt. Reunited with Joseph, and equipped with the proper toolset to "win" at life, even Egypt couldn't put a damper on it.

So in our own lives, let's find that anchor that holds us strong in the face of adversity. Whether it's Shabbat with your family, a weekly Torah study session, or any of the 611 other Mitzvahs, we have the ability to plug in and weather any storm. Rising above the fray, above the darkened clouds, where the now distant noise doesn't faze us.

The Oily Latke Deal

What's the buzz about the Latke?

Why are we obsessed with eating oily foods on Chanukah? It's not like Jewish tradition doesn't have enough calories already... 

So, of course, it has to do with the Miracle of the oil, and how the single cruse, enough to last only one day, burned for eight days straight.

But hang on a second! There was another miracle as well; the Maccabees emerged victorious over the Syrian-Greek army. The few won the many, the weak overcame the mighty. Why isn't this a central part of the celebration? Why is there no tradition of marching around with swords (or rolling pins) held high?

You see, if Chanukah had just been a military victory, we would not be celebrating it 2,000 years later. We won the battle because we needed to, not because we enjoy fighting. What do we celebrate? Light. And how light is the antithesis to darkness.

This is what the real war was about. The Greeks wanted to make our candles go dark, defile the oil, take away from us that which is holy and pure. Lighting a candelabra so you can see where you're going? Sure. But not as a Mitzvah in the Holy Temple with pure olive oil. 

This was at the core of their philosophical difference. And this was only settled with the lighting of the Menorah and the miracle of the oil, sending a clear message that there is something special going on, that we will continue to shine bright!

So we light the Menorah, and (against the nutritionist's advice) eat jelly donuts and latkes fried in oil, to connect with our inner flame, our inner cruse of pure olive oil.

Shabbat Shalom & Happy Chanukah!

Looking for older posts? See the sidebar for the Archive.