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Bay State Blues & Wyoming Scavenger

Friday, 22 January, 2010 - 9:00 am

Thanks to the high birth rate amongst Chabad families, we often have reason to celebrate a new family addition with family and friends. One such party was held this past Sunday in Jackson, Wyoming.

Esther and I piled the kids in the car (ok, minivan) for the 380 mile trip at 3:00 am so we could arrive in time for the baby celebration our colleagues and friends, Rabbi and Mrs. Zalman and Raizy Mendelsohn, were holding in honor of their daughter Chana’s birth.

The experience was wonderful. Meeting fellow Jews in the Wild West, spending quality time with my colleagues from Wyoming and Montana (Rabbi & Mrs. Chaim and Chavie Bruk of Bozeman also drove in – and they too deserve a Mazal Tov on the recent adoption of a baby girl, Chaya Miriam), and a change of scenery were all welcome perks.

After the event, I volunteered to take the kids out while Esther rested. She deserves it and needs it, as –you guessed – she is expecting again. And for those that are curious, the baby is due in May and we don’t know if it is a boy or girl.

Rabbi Mendelsohn introduced me to my perfect comrade, Howie Goldstein, from Long Island, NY. Howie offered to take us on an excursion to the nearby National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park. One Jew from New York taking another Jew originally from New York to explore the wilds of cowboy country!

Actually Howie has a degree in Fisheries and Wildlife and was a professional tour guide in the parks this summer. So we were in good hands.

We got quite lucky. We were able to see bighorn sheep, elk, pronghorns, bison, moose and more. Perhaps more importantly, we were noticing new animals and fowl at quick enough intervals to keep the kids’ attention.

But one thing caught my attention the most. We spotted a coyote feasting on an elk. Now coyotes cannot usually take down an elk. This elk must have died naturally or at the hands of some other predator. The coyote was simply a lucky opportunist, dining on someone else’s tab. Or, as some skeptics would term it, a scavenger exploiting the misfortune of others.

Recent events have made me ponder a bit about this concept. The recent electoral upset in Massachusetts has been attributed (at least in part) to a disgruntled electorate. But the key is often about seizing the opportunity. Had the electorate not been so upset with the status quo, Mr. Brown may never have had the opportunity to reach the Senate. But had he not seized the opportunity and campaigned hard, spoken to those misgivings and rallied his supporters – he would not have overcome the odds.

The Talmud teaches us that, “One who wishes to purify himself/herself is granted assistance from above.” It’s up to us to seek out the opportunities in life. If we do, we’ll be surprised.

Again, I find the words of our Sages ringing true: G-d says, “Open for Me the opening of a needle and I will open for you an opening as the opening of a chamber.”

In life, and certainly in spiritual pursuits, being a scavenger is not so bad after all.

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