I remember back in summer camp how the office manager would announce: “Learning never ends, learning never ends” when informing the campers that learning classes were indeed over. Though it may sound obvious, this week I found myself thinking, “Shlichus never ends, shlichus never ends,” as I offered personal thanks to Hashem for empowering us with unquestionable siyatta d’Shmaya, knowing that we’d never be able to do what we do without the incredible berachos from the Rebbe, of blessed memory.
It takes extraordinary energy, time, patience, devotion, hospitality, and love for Am Yisrael to do what we do, and we aren’t superhuman; we are men and women with families, with ups and downs, with simchos and tragedies. I therefore believe it’s a gift from heaven, a special berachah for those across the Jewish world who are ensuring that all of our brothers and sisters are connected to HaKadosh Baruch Hu and His Torah.
Despite all the hard work, especially the added challenges of COVID, this yom tov season was out of this world, and I wouldn’t have given it up for anything. In a three-week period, over 150 locals attended one of the many mitzvah opportunities we offered. Jennifer came special to hear the shofar on the second day of Rosh Hashanah; Eden joined us for tashlich; Sahara came to make a berachah on the lulav and esrog; Brooke came to name her baby daughter at the Torah during Minchah on Yom Kippur; Max helped make the minyan on the first days of Sukkos; Aksel came to eat in the sukkah on Hoshanah Rabba; Hagai came to say Yizkor on Shemini Atzeres; and Mick came to dance with the Torah on Simchas Torah, the Torah that he and his family dedicated nine years ago in memory of his beloved mother.
Each one came to nourish his or her soul, and nourishment comes in different shapes and sizes. As I circled during hoshanos on Hoshanah Rabba, I glanced at my lulav and esrog and smiled, as it was kosher but definitely worn out from the 75 Yidden who used it to make a berachah during Sukkos.
The Aibershter was so gracious to bless Montana with unusually warm weather (by our standards), allowing us to get through the yom tov season with outdoor minyanim, as our current shul is too small to accommodate indoor services with social distancing. Yes, we had plenty of wind that blew apart our outdoor canopies; yes, it rained, hailed, and snowed a bit, but overall it was possible, because Hashem graced Montana with extra warmth, unlike the normally cold temperatures this time of year, to make Tishrei 5781 an unforgettable month of spirituality for Montanan Jewry.
Shlichus never ends.
On Simchas Torah morning, a local came to shul before davening started and said, “Rabbi, do you have a minute? I want to talk to you about a Chanukah idea.”
Though I laughed at the need to discuss Chanukah on Simchas Torah, I realized that he, too, has become accustomed to the Rebbe’s approach and wants to go “m’chayil el chayil,” from strength to strength, from yom tov to yom tov, from inspiration to inspiration, never stopping from the mission at hand to bring Mashiach. I had this in mind when I kissed my kids goodbye on Monday morning, Isru Chag, wished Chavie the best of luck, and headed out for a two-day, nine-city trip up in north central Montana, just 30 miles south of the Canadian border near Alberta.
Chavie and I realized long ago that while our shlichus is primarily about the Jews of Montana, we have a responsibility to care for all things Jewish in Montana, including things that can have a far-reaching effect outside of the state to the broader community. As part of that mission, ten years ago we launched the Vaad HaKashrus of Montana (Montana Kosher), allowing local companies to be certified kosher if they meet the highest standards of kashrus, and they could do so while working with a local team that is on the ground in Montana, available to service them 24/6.
We do this because it allows more kosher products to make their way to the kosher market, and because it allows the locals to pay less for the supervision, as they don’t need to fly in a rabbi from the coasts. We do this because it creates a powerful kiddush Hashem as they interact with a frum Jew who is a fellow landsman and is helping them grow their consumer base, and, naturally, we do this because the certification fees help cover some of the costs of operating a Chabad center.
It’s a win for all of us.
In this week’s parashah, Bereishis, the beginning of it all, we read about the original food eaten by Adam and Chava. The pasuk tells us, “G-d said, ‘I have hereby given you every plant that reproduces by seed, which is on the face of the entire earth, and all trees that have tree fruit which reproduce by seed, shall be for you to eat.’”
Though things changed later, in the time of Noach, when animal consumption was introduced, the first diet given to humans seems to be 100% vegan. Though our family is indeed health-conscious thanks to Chavie and her wealth of knowledge, I, personally, have a long way to go in remedying my own eating habits and focusing more on natural, healthy, G-d given, earth-based food, while adding exercise to my daily regimen. In the meantime, it’s an honor to partner with amazing local farmers to bring more organic, grown-in-America, non-GMO food to Jewish families across the fruited plains.
So though the work never ends, it is well-worth it.
Rabbi Chaim Bruk is co-CEO of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. For comments or to partner in our holy work, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit JewishMontana.com/Donate.