Category Archives: September

A YOM KIPPUR MESSAGE and a new version of kol nidrei from eretz yisrael

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Shana Tova, to my friends across the globe. Shana Metukah – a sweet year. And G’mar Chatimah Tova – may you be sealed in the Book of Life for a good year. And Tzom Kal – Have an easy fast.

All ways to indicate that on this coming Tuesday evening, Jews everywhere will be gathering in unprecedented numbers to listen to, to resonate with, the sounds of KOL NIDRE, and thus begin the observance of that annual SHABBAT SHABBATON, that Sabbath of Sabbaths, known as Yom Kippur.

There have been many studies that have explored the musical settings of Kol Nidre. We are told that, “it belongs to the mi-sinai tune tradition – a group of fixed seasonal leitmotifs and melodies whose origin dates to the medieval Rhineland communities, and which constitutes a bedrock layer of Minhag Ashkenaz, or Ashkenazi custom. It combines syllabic chanting with melismatic passages.”

Fine. But many Jews live within the embrace of the Eyodt HaMizrach/Mizrachi or the Sefardi traditions – with their own, wondrous melodies. And some Jews, such as those in Mumbai, have a musical tradition that is a unique blend of the Mizrachi and of traditional Indian music.

And of course none of those melodies was actually heard at Mt Sinai – but that’s just a rabbinic way of indicating that the melody is old, very, very old. And as authentic as things can get.

None of that explains why Kol Nidre grabs our souls and lifts us heavenwards even when we might not even believe in heaven. It just does.

Whether we are listening to the Bruch composition for cello played by a member of the local symphony, or to a magnificent formal choir accompanied by a pipe organ, or to a volunteer gathering of talented and caring people or to a cantor alone on the Bimah, wrapped in her Tallit, wearing white sneakers and a white robe – the sounds of Kol Nidre don’t need us to comprehend or to even consider the accompanying words – since truth be told, those words have very little relevance today, despite the myriad of sermons that earnestly seek to claim otherwise. Kol Nidre is just – Kol Nidre. And in its presence, as it is repeated three times, we know who we are and before Whom we stand. And that’s more than enough to justify its power.

Our Sedra is VAYELECH. The entire Sedra runs just a few verses, Deuteronomy: 31:1-30. Usually, this Sedra is combined with another one – but not this year. Moses’s last day on earth is coming to an end. He has come to terms with God’s refusal to allow him to enter the Promised Land. So: VAYELECH – Moses went out to the people, and spoke words that poured from his heart. The late Alvin Fine wrote these magnificent words: “Birth is a beginning and death a destination, but life is a journey, a sacred pilgrimage, made stage by stage, from birth to death to life everlasting.” VAYELECH. This is the last time before Moses undertakes the longest journey of all.

Ibn Ezra says that Moses chose to visit each of the 12 tribes separately, one by one, to speak with as much intimacy as possible his words of encouragement, of hope, and of warning. By visiting each tribe in such a fashion, Moses demonstrated that all of that which links the Israelites to God – the complex history, the Covenants, the commandments the praise and the cautions – none of that was intended just for the few, for the elite – but for each one of them, for everyone, woman, man, child. Each of us matters. Torat Moshe, the Torah of Moses, is my Morasha and your Morasha – my inheritance even as it is the inheritance of each one of you.

Ramban added that Moses was also teaching each of us how to die. If we are granted the time and the circumstances to have some control at that moment, then we should do as Moses did: To speak intimately with those whom we love the most, to bless them, and then to humbly request their permission for our departure.

Torah teaches us how to live, so it makes sense that Torah would also teach us how to die.

And perhaps most important of all, say other commentators, was that Moses wanted to lift his people’s spirits. A great adventure, a new adventure, begins the moment that they cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Their hearts should be filled with hope and with joy. Mourning for the loss of Moses should not drag down their spirits. Joshua will lead them; he will march before them. After all, they are carrying the Tablets of Stone in their midst. Their minds must be on the future as their own sacred pilgrimage continues.

There is a recurrent phrase in our very short Sedra: CHAZAK V’AMATZ in the singular and CHIZKU V’IMTZU in the plural. Be strong and of good courage. “Be strong and resolute. I am not indispensible. Joshua will lead you.” CHAZAK V’AMATZ. “You will confront ferocious enemies. “ CHIZKU V’IMTZU. “You can turn the tide of history if you hold fast to your mission. You are not helpless. You are not trapped by fate. You have agency. Shape your own future.”

And to Joshua. “Joshua, my disciple. Joshua, my anointed successor. Don’t worry that YOU are not ME. Just BE YOU. I confronted my challenges. And now you must confront yours. Don’t be crippled by my past achievements. Don’t waste a lot of time trying to figure out if you are doing what I would have done. I am me, but only YOU are YOU. Be the kind of the leader that the people needs now.” CHAZAK V’AMATZ.

So what’s the difference between CHAZAK and AMATZ? Both carry the meaning of ‘Be Strong.’ Pinchas Peli offers a keen insight. CHAZAK is a call to be physically prepared. You will need an army. You will need weapons for your soldiers. You will need a chain of command as well as organized supply chains. You soldiers will need to be well trained. Your commanders will have to understand their particular tasks. CHAZAK. Be ready for any challenge that comes your way.

And what then is AMATZ? An army confronting a physical challenge and a family confronting a relational challenge and a person confronting an ethical challenge must be more than physically prepared. The IDF, the Israel Defense Forces, operates with a mission statement that includes what is called TOHAR HA-NESHEK, the purity of arms. True victory is won by a well-prepared military operating with a clearly defined code of conduct. Israelis know and understand that each time they fail that litmus test, they are failing to defend their people’s future, no matter how glorious a battlefield victory might appear.

It is no different in a relational struggle. Relationships are never zero sum games. Healthy relationships are never power struggles. Healthy relationships are founded upon a commitment to see the other as a DEMUT ELOHIM, an image of God – no more and no less than we are.

And as we struggle to chart our own, personal, individual ways into the Promised Lands of our own choosing, CHAZK is never enough. AMATZ is required of us as well, as we are expected to see ourselves securing our successes in a way that never violates those moral and ethical standards by which we would like everyone to be guided.

YOM KIPPUR. Is almost here. Kol Nidre’s ancient and diverse sounds will penetrate our souls. CHAZAK V’AMATZ, my friends. Be physically strong and be of strong moral courage in all of your undertakings. G’MAR CHATIMAH TOVA and Shabbat Shalom.

About the author:
Rabbi Stanley M. Davids, D.D., was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) and is rabbi emeritus of Temple Emanu-El in Atlanta, GA. A member of the Board of Overseers of HUC-JIR in Los Angeles and an honorary life member of NFTY, the Reform Movement’s youth organization, he previously held leadership posts with the Association of Reform Zionists of America(ARZA), the Jewish Agency for Israel, and the World Zionist Organization.


GREAT FALLS – The International Franchise Association has recognized one of Great Falls very own. Aaron Weissman, owner of Teriyaki Madness, received the ‘National Franchisee of the Year’ award.
Weissman says although he was surprised by the award, he is very humble: “It’s such a testament to the wonderful people that work here in Great Falls.”
“I tried the food and I thought, ‘Oh my God, it’s so good.’ I thought we had to have one of these in Great Falls. So I worked hard for a couple of years and I made sure that we got one open,” Weissman said.
Teriyaki Madness, located on 10th Avenue South, is the only one in Montana; it opened in April 2017.
Weissman says the best thing about owning a franchise is working with his employees, and with other organizations in Great Falls.
Every Monday is ‘fundraiser night’ at Teriyaki Madness, with 20% of sales going to a selected non-profit agency in the community.
“So far we have donated thousands of dollars all over Great Falls. We have worked with over three dozen organizations.” Weissman said.
When MTN asked Weissman about the key to being an entrepreneur in Great Falls, he had this to say:
“You’ve got to be a little bit brave. You have to be willing to put yourself out there. You’ve got to be willing to accept some criticism. And you’ve got to be willing to take a risk.”
A press release says that the Teriyaki Madness corporate team nominated Weissman not only for his strong sales and profit margins, but because of the good work he does in the Great Falls community.
Reporting by Elizabeth Transue for MTN News


EDITOR’S NOTE: Rabbi Mark Kula officiated at Dawn Schandelson’s memorial service and did a wonderful job. He and his wife and two children have just moved to Missoula from Miami, Florida. See the link below to learn more about him.

Rabbi Mark Kula

Rabbi Mark H. Kula Sermon Rosh Hashana Day 1

From The Miami Herald



EDITOR’S NOTE: Two of my favorites.

The Time Is Now

The Days Of Awe




September 5, 2018

“As Israel prepares to celebrate the 5779th year of the Hebrew calendar, Israel’s population stands at 8,907,000, of whom 6,625,000 (74.4%) are Jews, the Central Bureau of Statistics reported Tuesday. 175,000 babies were born in Israel this past year, and 25,000 new immigrants arrived – 62% from Russia and Ukraine, 12% from France, and 10% from the U.S. Arabs in Israel number 1,864,000, 20.9% of the population. 89% of Israelis polled said they were happy with their lives, while 84% assessed their health as good.

Amir Weitmann, Head of the Libertarian Caucus in the Likud, and Binyamin Lachkar, Likud Central Committee, speaking at ILTV studio about a new poll by Israel’s Keshet TV that reports that the Likud party with Prime Minister Netanyahu at its head would win 36 seats in the Knesset if elections were held today.