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The Rabbi's thoughts culled from the "word from the Rabbi" in his weekly email

Am Yisrael Chai:

These days it can be concerning to be a Jew. Anti-Israel bias is rampant in the media. The comments to news articles and videos about Israel on Youtube are terribly anti-Semitic. One might even be a bit fearful.

These days I have taken to quoting the phrase Am Yisrael Chai - The People of Israel are alive! These days we Jews need to return to our deepest roots, to awaken the spark of the Jew within - the Pintele Yid and fortify ourselves in our own self-worth.

In this week's Torah portion we read of the desire of Bilaam, the non-Jewish prophet who is hired by an arch enemy of the Jews, Balak the King of Moab, to curse them. Try as he might G-d does not allow him to carry through with his wishes. So much so that instead of curses, blessings come forth from his mouth.

The Jewish People have never been confined by the boundaries of nature. Perhaps that is why we are still here as a people 3,300 years later. We shouldn't fool ourselves to think that anything has changed. Military might is important, good political connections are important, but our strength needs to come from within. We need to recognize that we are connected to a G-d that is higher than all of the politics and media bias. If we do so then we can truly say AM YISRAEL CHAI! with a conviction that will empower us to overcome all forces that wish to do us harm.

Have a great week!

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Relationships - From Good To Profound:

Relationships are typically based on the "what's in it for me" factor. That is true even if the "what's in it for me" is lofty, like intellectual accomplishment. Let's talk about male-female relatlionships; what's in it for me? Physical attraction, security, "you make me laugh", "you make me whole". Get my drift?
 
Now, that's not to say that there is anything wrong with this. In fact, on one level we are bound to the human tools available to connect with others. These tools are our consciousness and how we see the other one assisting us in being all we can be.
 
The difference between a good relationship and a profound one is when the emotion and intellect don't like what they are experiencing. Things don't make sense and they don't feel comfortable. What happens then? Do you give up, lose your cool, walk out? Or do you do the right thing anyway?
 
It is at that moment that the relationship ceases being a good one (sometimes if even that) and becomes a profound one. That is because it has moved away from the human tools of connection to a transcendent one.
 
This is what we are introduced to in the opening of this week's Torah portion. The Torah talks of the commandment of purifying one who has come in contact with the dead. A unique ritual of spraying a concoction consisting of the ashes of a rare red heifer with spring water and hyssop grass purifies the person from his impurity. 
 
It is a commandment that does not make sense, it is not logical, it doesn't sit comfortably emotionally, but it is an example of the transcendent aspect of our relationship. It is so much so, that the Torah calls it the Chukas HaTorah - The decree of the Torah. Decrees by definition are instructions that must be obeyed at all times even and perhaps particularly when they don't make sense.
 
In our relationship with G-d, as with human beings, it is this moment that we move from  a good relationship to a profund one. It is at that moment when we do the Mitzvah, not because it feels good, not because it makes sense, but simply out of obedience, that we graduate to a new level in our relationship.
 
Try it on the human level and try it on the G-dly level and watch new vistas open before you!  
 
Rabbi Eliyahu Schusterman

Almonds

In this week’s Torah portion: Aaron’s position as high priest was challenged so G‑d tells Moses to take a staff from each of the twelve tribes, with the name of each tribe's prince written upon their staff. Another staff was taken to represent the tribe of Levi, and Aaron's name was written on that staff. These staffs were placed overnight in the Holy of Holies chamber of the Tabernacle. The next morning they were removed, and miraculously Aaron's staff had budded with almond blossoms and almonds. This was proof that Aaron was G‑d's choice for High Priest.

On that note the question is asked what is the role of the Kohen?

The Kabbalah explains: It is the role of the Kohanim (sons of Aaron) to express G-d’s blessings to the Jews. The purpose of the Kohen’s blessing is to expedite this unimaginable journey from G-d’s throne to our own personal life with the blessings of children, health and sustenance, to see to it that these blessings reach us speedily and without any impediment along the way. Indeed, in the Priestly Blessing (recited as part of our holiday prayers and in Israel every day) the Kohanim bless us to have all of these blessings revealed speedily. This is hinted at by Aaron’s name, which is spelled with the same Hebrew letters as the word nireh, “we will see.”

 

Aaron’s job, and the job of all Kohanim, is to bless the Jews with revealed good in a quick and direct way. And so shall it be for Jews worldwide and for the Jewish community of Harford county.

 

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

 

Rabbi Kushi Schusterman

Gaza Flotilla

 Word from the Guest Rabbi  

 

From my Inbox: 

What do you say to this Gaza flotilla episode? Did you see the real story behind it on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk ? As usual the media and world opinion condemns Israel for defending itself. When will truth prevail?

Question:

Answer:

In the battle for truth, there is an important lesson we can learn from the Hebrew language.

The word for truth in Hebrew is Emet. The word for falsehood is Sheker. Both words are made up of three Hebrew letters. The difference is that the three letters of Emet are the first, middle and last letters of the alphabet (aleph, mem, tav), while the letters that make up Sheker (shin, kuf, reish) are consecutive letters, bunched together in the alphabet.

The holy tongue is here giving a profound insight into the difference between truth and falsehood. Truth is a broad and all-encompassing perspective, while falsehood is no more than a misleading and narrow snapshot.

To know the truth you need to know the full picture, from beginning to end. You cannot understand a situation without knowing the background, the events that led to it. And you don't know whether an event is a victory or a defeat until its consequences unravel.

On the other hand, to view a scene in isolation, out of context, ignorant of the facts and unaware of the backdrop, will invariably lead to false impressions.

Sadly, modern mainstream media is prone to falsehood. Catchy sound bites, dramatic images, angry reactions and loose accusations are far more newsworthy than lengthy explanations, detailed analysis and historic perspective. In the grab for airtime, a tedious truth will not compete with a flotilla of falsehood.

But in the end truth will prevail. This crisis, like others before, will pass. People of good will and integrity around the world are already seeing beyond the false headlines. Newspapers are disposable, and for good reason. Truth is not.

Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Moss

 

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