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The world Jewish community is reeling from the tragedy that occurred last night, on the eve of Lag B’omer, at Mt. Meron, in the Holy Land of Israel. 

We mourn and grieve the loss of so many lives, which took place at this joyous, historic event. Our hearts are with the families and the communities of the bereaved. May G-d console them, and heal the terrible heartbreak in our midst.

Lag B’omer is a day marked by expressions of Jewish unity. In unity, we elicit Divine blessings. Let us join in together to do an extra Mitzvah to honor the lives lost and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded.

May the unity of the Jewish people, especially on Lag B’omer, bring true healing to the grieving families and to all of us who grieve with them. We pray for an end to all pain and suffering with the ushering in of the Geulah - the ultimate redemption.

Welcoming a 'Wonder-Full' Year of 5781!

Oh, how we want this to be a good new year...

How about year of Revealed Wonders?! Wouldn't that be good?

In a teaching of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, back in 1991, he talked about how that year, 5751, would be a year of wonders and miracles. Indeed, many incredible changes on the world stage happened at that time, including Israel's miraculous imperviousness to the attack of Iraqi Scud missiles. 

In that teaching, the Rebbe wrote a fascinating commentary related to the Hebrew letters which form the acronym for this year, of 5781. In it he stated that 'Pey Alef' (standing for '81') stand for the words "Pla'ot Ar'enu" - "He will show us wonders." Specifically describing a transformation from place of difficulty and darkness, to a state of Revealed Wonders. 

So as we welcome this new year, we are filled with optimism and hope that in this coming year we get to see a transformation from darkness to light,  from challenge to achievement, and from Exile to the Torah's promise of ultimate Redemption and goodness for all mankind. 

Shana Tova!

Rabbi Yitzchok 

Video of last night's class

Watch a video of last night's weekly Zoom/Facebook Live Torah portion class. 


Discover some of the many interesting Mitzvot in this week's Parsha! 

Making history at Friendswood City Hall

I'm grateful for having had the opportunity this week to deliver the invocation at the opening of the Friendswood City Council. You can say we made history, as I understand this the first time that a rabbi has opened for the council!

Thank you Councilman Brent Erenwert and the City Council for their gracious invitation.

If you want to see the clip, see the beginning of this video:

Video - A thought on the spot before Shabbat

The Inner Heart and Soul of our Country is Good

I was about to board a flight at Hobby Airport when a stranger tapped me on my shoulder to tell me how sorry he feels for what happened in Pittsburgh: "This should not happen in America... It is not who we are," he said with a pained face.

The next day, at Phoenix's Sky Harbour Airport nearly the very same thing happened again, "My wife and I are shocked and outraged," the airport worker told me.

Colleagues and friends have related that similar interactions have happened with them as well. 

The test of character, it is often said, is revealed not as much by a particular negative event that takes place, but more so by how one reacts to it. 

I think the same can be said about a country or society, that its inner heart and soul is exposed by how it reacts to trying events that occur.

As Houstonians, we have seen this only recently with Harvey, and as Americans we are seeing this once again with Pittsburgh.

Millions of people across America are truly horrified by the attack. America was founded on strong moral principles and despite the turmoil in the air -- or perhaps, in the airwaves -- these principles are strongly present and expressed by people from all walks of life and across the political spectrum. 

I have no doubt that in the long run, that inner goodness will continue to flourish and spread and will ultimately prevail.

The Torah's vision for humanity is clear: That there will come a day when the Divine moral principles of the Seven Laws of Noah will be embraced by humanity. A time when the world will finally fulfill its inner potential, to be a place where kindness, goodness and G-dliness reigns.

Let us redouble our efforts to do our part to help make that good world a reality speedily in our days.

Rabbi Yitzchok Schmukler 

PS I'm currently at the annual international conference of Chabad rabbis, where some 4,000 of us are working on how we - together with our respective communities - can enhance our efforts to achieve that goal, for the benefit of each and every Jew and for mankind!

PPS For more information about the Seven Laws of Noah, see: Seven Laws for a Beautiful Planet.  

Reflections on a year since Harvey

This week is one year since Hurricane Harvey. The storm had a severe impact on many people’s lives in our community. Now, one year later, there are still many amongst us who are dealing with the aftermath and working hard to get life completely back to normal.

At the same time, the flood waters revealed an incredible well of kindness as Texans from all backgrounds and walks of life went all out to help one another. We are grateful for the support that the local Jewish community gave, and continued to give, both on a grassroots level as well as through organizations such as the Jewish Federation, Jewish Family Services, Chabad Centers throughout the Houston area and beyond, synagogues and many others.

As we approach the new year, it is our fervent hope that anyone in need of healing be granted complete healing and that this coming year bring only good health, peace, prosperity and revealed blessing to one and all.

City Council Invocation

I was honored to represent the Jewish community in League City in my delivery of the Invocation at the opening of the City Council meeting this past Tuesday. Here is a brief video.

Input in School Safety

I was invited last week to serve as one of three 'faith leaders' on Clear Creek ISD's School Safety Committee. Composed of a parents, staff, students, security and mental health professionals, and faith leaders, the committee's task is to advise the board of trustees on what new measures to implement to enhance school safety for the CCISD's 42,000 students and 5,000 staff members. 

We already got to work this past Tuesday and I'm eager to have the opportunity, as a representative of the Jewish community and the larger faith-based community, to hopefully advise changes not only in physical security but in areas that can enhance emotional and spiritual health as well. 

If you have thoughts and ideas that you feel can be helpful in this area, feel free to email me here and I will be sure to include it in the discussions. 

After Harvey

The destruction that so many people in our community have suffered this week boggles the mind. Our hearts go out to each and every person affected by the storm. 

While the recovery is expected to be long and challenging, I am confident that Houston will come back stronger and even better than before. Most of all, the caring and generous spirit that we have seen will no doubt to leave a positive impact that will be remembered and serve as a source of pride and inspiration for many years to come.

Hurricane Harvey

Click here for our LATEST POST ON THE STORM.

Click here to DONATE. 

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(Posted Friday, Aug 25):

With the forecast for tomorrow morning in our immediate area being wet, but not too bad, we will, G-d willing and conditions permitting, be meeting for Services followed by light Kiddush refreshments.

While no one can be certain how things will turn out in the Galveston Bay Area, it seems most likely that there will be people in need of assistance once Harvey passes through.

We will be participating along with other organizations, in coordinating volunteers to provide assistance where possible. If you or anyone you know is need of help, please contact us at [email protected] 

May Hashem watch over all of us and keep everyone safe from any harm.

Remember to light Shabbat Candles (at around 7:32 pm) before sunset tonight and help usher in extra blessing and light into our little world.

Shabbat Shalom! 

The secret of Simchat Torah...

Simchat Torah is a special time. We dance, we sing, we celebrate the greatest gift of all... our holy and precious Torah! G-d's infinite wisdom.

Joy breaks through all barriers! It uplifts and unites us when we celebrate together as one people. Simchat Torah is a celebration not about our accomplishments in studying the Torah, rather it is about the essence of the Torah and our essence as a people - a bond which has kept our people united, courageous and strong despite all diversities we have faced throughout the ages.

Join us as we celebrate our heritage, our love and joy for the Torah and for our people Israel. Let us celebrate our greatest commonality:

We are one people, with one G-d, one Torah, one heart! 

- Credits: Naftoli S.

Nice, France

Our hearts go out to the families of the victims of the horrific terror attack in Nice, and we offer our heartfelt prayers for the complete and speedy recovery of those who were injured.

It has been frustrating to observe the unequal attitude to terror that is exhibited by many around the world. This type of vehicular terror attack was being done in Israel throughout this year and mostly the world has remained indifferent to it, or when noticing it would often be in criticism of the Israeli security forces response. It is clear that we, as a society, must unite with one voice and without bias in pursuit of a common effort to cut this evil off at its root.

May we speedily see our long prayed for time of Geulah - redemption, when violence and evil will no longer reign, with arrival of the era of ultimate goodness for all mankind.

Knowing what comes first

Why does the Torah begin with the letter Beit -- the second letter of the Hebrew alphabet? Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to start it with an Alef -- the first letter of the alphabet?

This is to teach us, says the Talmud (Bava Metzia 85b), that when we sit down to study Torah we must be aware that there is something that needs to comes first. And what is it? Reciting the blessing over studying Torah. 

But why is that so important?

Because when we study Torah we're not merely engaging in an intellectual pursuit, rather, what we are doing first and foremost is learning how to connect to G-d.

By reciting the blessing over the Torah, we are putting our pursuit into its proper context by making ourselves aware of G-d, the Giver of the Torah. Only then can our learning and understanding of the Torah truly begin.

- Adapted from Lightpoints

PS The "Blessing of the Torah" is included in the Morning Blessings that are recited prior to the daily Shacharit morning service. 

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