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Join us each week as we journey across the United States and gather words of Torah from rabbanim representing each of the fifty states. This week we are pleased to feature divrei Torah from Rabbi Chaim Bruk from Bozeman, Montana.
Jodie Maoz

In this week’s Torah portion, Eikev, we read Moshe’s beautiful words to Klal Yisroel: “Only your forefathers the Lord desired, to love them, and He chose their seed after them, you, out of all peoples, as it is this day.” After giving us the Torah, Hashem chose us as His people: “And now, if you obey Me and keep My covenant, you shall be to Me a treasure out of all peoples, for Mine is the entire earth… And you shall be to Me a kingdom of princes and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel.”

This, to me, is the essence of Judaism.


It is clear to me that Hashem meant for all His princes and princesses to be treated accordingly. As I observe the souls attending the minyanim, Torah classes and Shabbos meals we offer in Big Sky Country, I see Satmar families from Kiryas Yoel lovingly celebrating Shabbos with feminist reform Jewesses, local liberal ski bums davening side by side with Israeli settlers and modern Orthodox hikers from Riverdale discussing Torah with vegan hippies. This is Am Yisroel. All the labels – “frum,” “shomer Shabbos,” “Reform,” “Chareidi,” and so on – should be eliminated from our vocabulary. We are all “Jews on a journey” and climbing up G-d’s ladder is the only thing that matters. Yes, when seeking a mashgiach for kashrus or a witness at a chuppah there are halachic requirements to follow and G-d forbid we inch even an iota away from the Shulchan Aruch, but which halacha tells us to be G-d’s police officers, judges and executioners?

A parent can’t divorce a child or vice versa. Hashem says “Bein kach u’bein kach bonai heim,” the Jews are my eternal children and that is unchangeable. G-d’s children don’t live exclusively in Crown Heights, Monsey or Tzfat. They also live in Livingston, Montana, Cancun, Mexico, and Ulyanovsk, Russia. Hashem certainly wants His children to follow His instructions, like any good parent. He has demanded that we follow His path of Torah and mitzvot, but He’s never hired any of us to further strain the loving relationship with his children! Inspire them? Sure! Bring them back home to the palace? Something the king would cherish! But labeling, unproductive chastisement and alienating them further from their heritage? No way! Has anyone’s yiras Shamayim ever increased because he or she condemned our Jewish brothers or sisters?

The tide is changing. After decades of oblivion, much of Jewry has finally accepted what my beloved mentor, the Lubavitcher Rebbe of righteous memory, taught for over forty years: the Jewish people are indeed a mamleches Kohanim, a nation of priests, and deserve to be treated as such. The Rebbe saw the Jew as a diamond and so should we; it may be buried in the earth or be a bit sooty, but that doesn’t take away its inherit value and potential shine. When I watch a Yid in Montana learning Rambam, the visitor who travels four or five hours to use the mikvah or the supporter on 5th Avenue who sees the value in educating and uplifting Montanan Jewry, I know that we are a nation of priests.

I take pride in being a disciple of the Rebbe. I love everything about Chabad Lubavitch and the wellsprings of chassidus. I am also a great-grandson of Yerushalyim’s ionic chief rabbi, Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld, the Lev Ha’Ivri and the Chiddushei HaRim, the first rebbe of Ger – all illustrious sages of Israel. To me, each of these traditions is a musical note that makes up the beautiful music of Judaism. I don’t have to agree with you to love you. I don’t have to pray like you, to farbreng with you. I don’t have to share the same room with you, we just have to share the same house.


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Rabbi Chaim Bruk is executive director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana and spiritual leader of The Shul of Bozeman. He can be reached at [email protected].