For nine long years, Rabbi Chaim Bruk, shliach to Montana, tried time and time again to build a Chabad House. Then, in a short few months, and after a receiving a number of clear signs from the Rebbe, everything turned around.
By Rabbi Chaim Bruk, director of Chabad Lubavitch of Montana
It was only a few months ago that I bemoaned our inability to build or purchase a permanent center for our Chabad house. I was frustrated, exhausted, despondent. Yet, we are taught that “yeshuas Hashem k’heref ayin,” G-d’s salvation is like the blink of an eye, and so I feel delighted, and even obliged, to share with you the rest of the story and the incredible results we experienced on Purim. Miracles happen all the time—whether or not we pay attention and see them is another story.
In December 2011, with the help of a group of local supporters and the kindhearted partnership of Mr. Sami Rohr and, yblch’t, his son Mr. George Rohr, we purchased a five-acre lot for $419,000 to build Montana’s first Chabad center. It was a great price, in a great location, and it needed to happen. We paid the entire amount in full, no debt. I was raised to always think big, and so we launched a plan to build a 23,000-square-foot JCC-like Jewish center. As time passed and funds landed very slowly, we lowered that to 16,000 square feet, then to 10,000 square feet, and, eventually, by 2019 we were looking to build just a 5,000-square-foot center, and even that seemed impossible. Construction costs in Bozeman continue to skyrocket due to coasters escaping out west, so we were in a state of building fatigue and even despair.
I had traveled across the country to meet with donors, and our locals truly gave it their all to make it happen, but short of finding a million-dollar donation or getting an unbearable, fiscally irresponsible mortgage, we were at a loss. To make the feeling even worse, in November 2020, just a short four months ago, a donor who lives in Montana (though not in Bozeman) asked for his $36,000 donation to be returned as the building hadn’t moved forward as planned. I sent him back the donation, but the whole episode was heartbreaking, like a stab in the heart for me and for Chavie, and I knew something had to change. I dropped the check in the mail and went straight to our realtor friend’s office. I said, “Pam, I want you to see what we could get for selling the property, and I need you to find a place that is already built that is walking distance from our home.”
I called all the donors to ask for their blessing on this move. I wrote to the Rebbe and sent a note to the Ohel asking for a berachah, and I waited to hear from Pam. On the first day of Chanukah, we put the property on the market. Right after Chanukah, I signed on a 4,000-square-foot unit in a newly built building near our home, and we got an offer on our property, which we countered, and the buyers accepted to purchase the property for $925,000, creating a $506,000 profit. It was unbelievable. We had $250,000 in the building fund account, we raised another $250,000 over the past six weeks, and on Purim morning we purchased the new Chabad center for $1,350,000, mortgage-free.
It was a miracle, truly. It was nine years of waiting, not knowing how it would ever happen, but when Hashem says it’s time to happen, it can all go down between Chanukah and Purim. We have a big budget for all that we do for the Jews of Montana, so not adding a major mortgage on top of that stressed budget is a miracle, at least for us.
It gets more interesting. I am naturally an anxious person; I get stressed easily and I like being in control. Though the buyers had a loan approved, they were awaiting their appraisal, and I found something to worry about: “What if the appraisal doesn’t go through?” On Tuesday, February 9, I got an e-mail that they couldn’t find an appraiser, as there are only a few in the area and the market is so hot, so it may delay the closing. I was on shpilkes—what will happen now? Will I look like a failure again? Is the Aibishter teasing us? All these feelings rushed through my mind and heart and were making me crazy. I wrote to the Ohel and went to pick up my kids from school. In my note, I asked for a berachah that the sale closing should be as planned on Yud Beis Adar and that we could buy the new place on Purim, an inherently auspicious day.
I returned home with the kids from school and I picked up the mail. In that day’s mail, there was a publication called A Chassidishe Derher, and the front cover had a big, bold statement: “Hashem Ro’i Lo Echsar”—Hashem is my Shepherd and I shall lack nothing. The subtitle was: “The Serenity of Bitachon.”
In this week’s parashah, Ki-Sisa, we read about the Cheit Ha’Egel, the sin of all sins, the Golden Calf. Though Moshe Rabbeinu had vowed to come down at a certain time, the Jews had doubts and ended up making a massive mistake which created long-term consequences. It wasn’t only their lack of trust in Hashem, but also about the importance of trusting in Moshe, His servant, and, in my case, my bitachon in Hashem and His servant, my beloved Rebbe, of blessed memory. I was bothered not only by the uncertainty of the deal but about my lack of trust and how I was like a spiritual roller coaster—believing and unsure, back and forth, back and forth; it can drive a person insane. I wanted to feel only bitachon, but it wasn’t there the whole time.
G-d is my Shepherd, I shall lack nothing.
A week before closing, I was sitting with Chavie and telling her how anxious I feel, and she was extremely supportive, as she always is. Five minutes later I sat down with my weekly Chayenu booklet for Terumah and came across a letter from the Rebbe from 1959: “If you, and all those who are active with you, step out with a joyful certainty that your efforts will be victorious, that victory will be easier, sooner and greater…”
Nu, I read this and was wowed—he was speaking straight towards my fragile heart, my questioning neshamah. The kicker was, on the motzaei Shabbos of Parashas Terumah, before the scheduled closings, when the weekly Living Torah film produced by Jewish Educational Media was titled “Think Positive,” which included stories of people struggling with their faith and the Rebbe guiding them through it and encouraging them to learn Chovos HaLevavos, Duties of the Heart.
On Tuesday, Yud Alef Adar, the appraiser came through, on Wednesday, Yud Beis Adar, we closed on the sale, and on Purim at 1:00 p.m. we read the Megillah at the new Chabad Center.
I share this because I owe it to Hashem to let the world know that He is an incredible Bashefer, Who cares about us and to Whom we owe our trust. He knew what we didn’t—that the property was merely an investment to allow the purchase of our new Center for Jewish Life and Learning. I have a way to go in my bitachon, but I’m pretty sure that this last week has made me a stronger believer, and hopefully the story will help you, too.
As I write this I am heading to New York for a few hours (16 hours of flying, 13 hours on the ground) to go to the Ohel and say thank you to my Rebbe. I am honored to be his ambassador and I’m grateful for his love, light, and berachos.
I shall lack nothing.
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, e-mail [email protected] or visit JewishMontana.com/Donate.